Mayor Gray: United are here to stay

Mayor Gray: United are here to stay
July 25, 2013, 1:30 pm
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D.C. United announces new stadium in SW D.C.

It’s official: D.C. United is getting the Nationals treatment.

Much like their former RFK roommates, United is going to be moving out of the aged stadium and into swankier digs, to be located just a few blocks from Nationals Park in Southwest D.C.

D.C. United representatives, Mayor Vincent Gray, members of City Council, and assorted media gathered at the future stadium site on Buzzard Point Thursday morning for the formal announcement of the deal between United and the city.

“We’re here to announce something that has long been anticipated,” said Mayor Gray. “And that is that the most winningest franchise in the history of Major League Soccer, D.C. United, will be staying right here in our nation’s capital.”

And with that, the future of the four-time MLS Cup champions in Washington, D.C. is secure. 

Though the team explored stadium options in Prince George’s County and Baltimore, keeping the franchise in D.C. was always the main goal, said United Managing Partner Jason Levien.

“We knew we were really committed -- and we had a laser-like focus -- on having a home here in the district.”

The $300 million deal, under which the city and franchise will split costs evenly at $150 million apiece, with D.C. United’s new ownership group paying their share up-front.

The state-of-the-art stadium will initially seat 20,000 fans, leaving room for an additional 5,000 seats that could be added at a later date. 

Early estimates have the team moving into the new facility by 2016.

That day likely can’t come soon enough for the team and its fans, who have endured poor sight lines, seats far from the action, and an overall lack of amenities since the inception of the franchise in 1996.

Attendance at United home games has lagged in recent years; the team currently draws just north of 13,500 fans per game, the third-lowest average in MLS.

United’s ownership is eagerly anticipating the spike in attendance that almost always accompanies a move to a brand-new stadium – and one that benefitted the fledgling Nationals franchise a few years ago.

Upon moving into their own new stadium in Southwest in 2008, the Nats drew almost 400,000 more fans than they had the year before – despite falling into last place in the NL East and losing 13 more games than in the previous season.

For their part, the Nats appear happy to soon have their old pals close again, and were among the first to release a welcome basket of sorts. 

“On behalf of the Lerner family and all of us here at the Washington Nationals, we would like to congratulate D.C. United and Mayor Gray on reaching a tentative stadium deal that will undoubtedly benefit all sports fans in the Nation’s Capital. We look forward to welcoming D.C. United to the neighborhood.”

The neighborhood itself will continue to benefit from the increased expansion and development. 

The deal with the city affords D.C. United the opportunity to open restaurants, shops, and perhaps even a hotel in the area surrounding their new stadium.

Throw in a 25 to 35-year lease on the land, and the potential for millions in tax abatement benefits, and it’s a pretty sweet deal for a team that’s been searching for a landing spot for years now.

As many in the District can attest, searching for a new place can take much longer than expected – but the right situation is worth the wait.

And if the abundant smiles on Buzzard Point Thursday morning are any indication, both tenant and landlord are pretty happy with the setup.