WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Seventeen years after the Washington Redskins played their final game at RFK Stadium, D.C. United now has plans to follow suit and move into new digs of their own.
Mayor Vincent Gray and team officials announced a tentative public-private partnership to build a new 20,000-25,000 seat soccer stadium as part of a $300 million development deal in the Buzzard Point area of Southwest Washington. The stadium will serve as the Major League Soccer franchise’s new home.
Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 MLS season.
Officials say a stadium design is not yet finalized, but a number of design concepts were released Thursday.
The new athletic field will reside on Half Street and Second Street SW, between R and T Streets, near Nationals Park and the Fort McNair Army base.
The city and team are to split the project costs evenly, each assuming an approximate $150 million burden. The city will finance land acquisition and infrastructure, while the team will be responsible for construction costs.
“This is a significant step forward, and we are going to continue to work diligently and collaboratively with the Mayor’s office and the D.C. Council to expedite this process and make this stadium a reality,” said United managing partner Jason Levien.
If given final approval, the project will further development in the area that began with the construction of a stadium for the Washington Nationals five years ago. The baseball team played at RFK from 2005, upon their arrival from Montreal, until 2007. The team moved into the newly constructed ballpark in time to start the 2008 season.
In a statement released Thursday, the Nationals congratulated the team and city officials on the 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 baseball team said.
A series of new restaurants, retail stores, and a hotel are also included in development plans near the stadium.
“The new soccer stadium is the final piece in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative puzzle that, when complete will create the most vibrant and sustainable sports-and-retail district in America,” said Gray.
District officials anticipate swapping properties to complete the deal. The agreement will force current tenants of the Frank D. Reeves Center for Municipal Affairs and some city agencies to relocate to a new facility being constructed near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road SE.
The deal requires the approval of the D.C. Council, which engaged in a protracted fight over using public funds to build Nationals Park, which is less than a mile away. The baseball stadium ended up costing the city nearly $700 million.
Five of the 13 councilmembers attended Thursday’s announcement and said they supported the deal.
Councilmember Jack Evans said the city would get good value out of the swap, under which developer John Akridge would receive the rights to redevelop the city-owned Reeves Center office building in the fast-growing 14th Street NW corridor, in exchange for his land at the stadium site.
“This is not controversial like the baseball stadium,” Evans said. “This is a pretty straightforward deal. It’s good for the city.”
The other parcels on the site are owned by the utility Pepco, which has a large power plant nearby, and investor Mark Ein, who attended Thursday’s announcement along with Pepco representatives. Terms of those swaps have not been finalized.
According to the agreement, the city has until Jan. 1 to obtain the land and get approval from the council and, if necessary, from Congress; if the city doesn’t meet the deadline, DC United can back out of the deal. And while officials said they want the stadium to open in time for the 2016 season, the agreement only calls for the stadium to be ready by Jan. 1, 2017.
In addition to the power plant, the site is bordered by the Army’s Fort McNair and the Anacostia River, making it largely cut off from the rest of the city. The nearest Metro stop is about a 15-minute walk away. City officials said infrastructure improvements, including a possible streetcar stop, would make it more accessible.
The move would leave RFK Stadium, the 52-year-old former home of the Washington Redskins and the Nationals, without a full-time tenant. There are no firm plans to redevelop that site once DC United leaves.
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