Why Not Buy the Team Instead? Stadium Building Run Amok

This has to be the dumbest sports franchise welfare program yet (boldface mine):

The D.C. Council put finishing touches Wednesday on plans for a 20,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, concluding a decade-long search for and months of negotiations over a permanent home for the D.C. United franchise.

With the vote, the team secured a deal that could get it out of the aging RFK Stadium as soon as 2017. And Mayor Vincent C. Gray, with about two weeks left in office, secured a legacy.

The final vote was matter-of-fact, with the council’s 12 members approving the deal unanimously.

A companion funding bill also passed unanimously Wednesday, authorizing nearly $140 million for the project — including $33 million in shifts from other projects and $106 million in new borrowing.

That funding is intended to cover roughly $89 million in land-acquisition costs, plus $46 million in costs to clear the stadium site and prepare the necessary infrastructure. Also included are $4.5 million in community benefits, most of that total for the establishment of a Circulator bus route in the area.

The deal requires the team’s owners, led by Indonesian media magnate Erick Thohir, to finance and build a stadium on the site, a few blocks southwest of Nationals Park. The stadium is expected to open for the 2017 Major League Soccer season.

This is nuts. In 2012, the D.C. United soccer team was bought for $50 million–the most ever paid for an MLS team. From what I’ve been able to find, it will cost $150 million to build the stadium.

If MLS is not a viable concern in the long run, then D.C. should be borrowing and spending $140 million for this project. If MLS is economically viable, then spend some more money and capture the profits for the city. Instead, the profits will go towards private owners, while D.C. gets a few part-time crappy jobs and some temporary construction jobs (many of which, no doubt, will help employ people in the suburbs, not the District).


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