Developments in Washington's mayoral race may impact DC United's quest for new stadium

D.C. United stadium rendering - day

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of D.C. United

WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s quest to build a soccer-specific-stadium of their own has never been an easy one. On Tuesday night, they may have hit another bump in the road.

Embattled D.C. Mayor Vince Gray – a staunch supporter of United’s stadium plan – lost his bid for re-election, falling in the District’s Democratic mayoral primary to DC City Council Member Muriel Bowser. Bowser will face Independent candidate David Catania in the city’s general election. Early polls see her winning that race convincingly.

Bowser initially came out against the stadium deal in February, suggesting that the land swap portion of the agreement – which would see the District give up real estate in the city’s U Street Corridor in exchange for much of the land at Buzzard Point that would be used for the stadium – was an untenable deal for the city. It was a hard-line stance likely taken to distance herself from Gray.

She has since softened her tone.

"I think that this team has been a good neighbor in the district,” Bowser told GreaterGreaterWashington.org last week. “There are a lot of DC residents that support them and I’m hopeful that they come to a deal that makes sense for us.”

"D.C. United congratulates Councilwoman Muriel Bowser on yesterday's primary victory,” team spokesman Craig Stouffer told MLSsoccer.com in a written statement received on Wednesday. "We wish her and Councilmember David Catania the best in the coming general election. We are looking forward to working with them, Mayor Gray, the rest of the DC Council, and all involved stakeholders to finalize a new stadium and the associated citywide economic development that it will bring.”

Bowser’s victory actually could be a blessing in disguise for United's stadium plans. Gray did not poll strongly when pitted against the decidedly anti-stadium Catania, and very well might've lost the general election to him. Plus, there was the potential Gray could be indicted while in office for his alleged involvement in a shadow campaign during his initial run for mayor in 2010. As mentioned before, Bowser has polled well against Catania. 

United head coach Ben Olsen, who himself lives in the District’s Shaw neighborhood and has been particularly involved in civic issues in the city, was cautious in his commentary on the election.

"I can’t comment on that [political] world,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. "I’m not gonna tell you who I voted for – but hopefully whoever the new mayor is is supportive of us and what we’re doing here. I think we deserve a stadium in this city. Time will tell, but I’m certainly hoping that they’re on our side."

Gray will remain in office for another nine months, providing the club with a bit more time to get a deal to the council.