Soccer stadium feasibility study points to economic benefits

City, D.C. United engaged in preliminary talks last fall

December 22, 2010|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

A soccer-only stadium in Westport could generate up to 940 new jobs and $2.8 million in city tax revenue, according to a feasibility study released by the Baltimore Development Corp. Wednesday.

Officials from Major League Soccer team D.C. United have held preliminary talks with the city about a possible move to Baltimore but won't enter "formal" discussions until a commitment is given about a facility. The study, commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority, analyzed two potential scenarios — a 25,000-seat stadium in Westport and a 10,000-seat stadium for the Crystal Palace franchise in the Carroll-Camden complex south of M&T Bank Stadium.

The proposed Westport stadium and an adjacent hotel would be part of a $1.5 billion mixed-use project being developed on the waterfront. The study determined the stadium could host 49 to 54 events annually, including 17 D.C. United games. Annual attendance is estimated to be 584,750 to 695,100 with total spending between $65.7 and $78 million each year. Total jobs are estimated at 780 to 940 with annual state tax revenues of approximately $3 million to $3.5 million. This project is expected to generate between $2.3 million to $2.8 million in annual city taxes.

However, the success of this venture would depend on completion of the planned Westport development project, the study noted.

A smaller Crystal Palace facility could host 60 to 68 events annually with total attendance ranging between 228,000 and 282,000 and total spending between $6.4 million and $9.1 million each year. Between 80 and 110 jobs would be generated with annual state taxes of $288,000 and $404,000. City taxes were calculated at $178,000 and $262,000 each year. The limited size of this site, however, would preclude development of surrounding fields for youth tournaments and other activities, according to the study.

Crystal Palace, of the North American Soccer League, is not expected to field a team for 2011 but wants to come back for 2012.

Kevin Healey, president and general manager of the Baltimore Blast, the city's indoor professional soccer team, said he's in a wait-and-see mode.

"Anytime there are improvements in soccer in Baltimore, I'm happy and believe that's good," Healey said. "We're waiting to see if anyone will step up and be willing to build these facilities."

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