After nearly a decade, D.C. United’s search for a soccer-specific home of their own may finally be drawing to a fruitful end.
The DC city council voted unanimously on Tuesday morning to approve plans to construct a 20,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium at Buzzard Point, a largely industrial area on the banks of the Anacostia River in southwest D.C.
The vote paves the way for the final step in the approval process, the council’s second and decisive vote, to be taken on Dec. 16.
“We have a deep appreciation for the D.C. Council’s continuing efforts which culminated in today’s unanimous 12-0 vote in favor of the stadium legislation,” United managing general partner Jason Levien wrote in an e-mail late Tuesday. “This is a significant step toward securing a permanent home for D.C. United."
Tuesday’s vote was the culmination of a year-and-a-half-long negotiation process, and though the deal has enjoyed widespread support, the unanimous vote came as a bit of a surprise.
Most members of the council have acknowledged the positives of the deal – estimated to be a financial gain for the city as well as an opportunity to build up an underserved and largely undeveloped area of the city – but others had expressed concern with a “land swap” agreement that would have seen the city trade away a valuable plot of prime real estate in a different part of town for much of the land needed to build the stadium.
That main sticking point was dealt with in recent weeks by incoming mayor and current Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser, who led a successful push to eliminate the largest of the land swaps entirely. In place of a trade involving the Reeves Center, a government facility in the city’s bustling U Street Corridor, the city will now borrow $62 million to help finance their portion of the deal, while the team will remain responsible for construction of the stadium proper.
Other council members and District residents had expressed concerns relating to the stadium’s impact on those who call Buzzard Point home. Those were also addressed in the deal’s latest iteration, which added provisions for additional bus service to the community, as well as funds for the renovation of a recreation center in the area and the creation of a workforce fund to help local residents find stadium-related jobs.
Though the light at the end of the tunnel is clearly visible, there is still work to be done, including the details surrounding plans for the initial funding of the project.
“We look forward to working constructively with the Council,” Levien said via e-mail, "the majority of which has indicated a willingness to improve the legislation, and resolve any issues in advance of Dec. 16, which promises to be a historic day for our fans and our city.”
Pablo Maurer covers DC United for MLSsoccer.com.