DC United, led by Will Chang since 2009, has announced the addition of investors Erick Thohir and Jason Levein to its ownership group. This news comes with renewed calls for a new stadium to be built in the metropolitan Washington area, though fans know that the new stadium might end up in Baltimore or elsewhere should the new crew in charge fail to strike a local deal. Efforts to site and fund stadiums in Prince George’s and at Poplar Point in the District have proved unfruitful, though reports indicate that land near Buzzard Point in Southwest DC remains the primary focus of potential site discussions despite some land assemblage hurdles.
Years of stadium site speculation have led to discussion of the pros and cons of sites throughout the metro area, from those listed previously to other potential spots of interest in Shady Grove and Dulles, which are worthy of revisited attention by the reformed ownership group. While the group starts to assess its best options to locate a new stadium, it will be forced to consider the current turmoil in DC politics in the past couple of months involving the recently resigned DC Council Chairman and the current mayor, as it has the potential to negatively impact any timeline for coming to an agreement. If time is of the essence for DC United’s ownership group, it would behoove the members of the group to explore other regional options at this point in time in hopes of finding a site with a local government that might be able to make a decision on a stadium agreement more readily.
One potential site that hasn't received attention but could fit the bill in a myriad of ways lies vacant on Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City. First proffered as a potential site for a baseball stadium in 2003, the site was viewed not only as an opportune place to house Virginia's first major league franchise, but was also already a targeted location by Arlington County officials for a 200K-300K SF high-tech conference center. Plans evolved to develop the stadium and conference center as an integrated project. Even after the stadium speculation at the site faded (due primarily to the absence of a team in hand, which is no issue for DC United), a bill allowing county hotel taxes to be raised 2% and allocated towards a conference center was approved by the Virginia General Assembly. However, the site has remained undeveloped and overgrown with weeds almost a decade later, which could prove serendipitous to the enterprising stadium seekers heading DC United.
A compelling selling point for a stadium at the aforementioned Pentagon City site is the unparalleled view from the site of the District and three prominent landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol, making it “a setting favored by Major League Baseball executives.” A creative design team could maximize those views with an open north end of the stadium. As the site was already heavily vetted in 2003, most of the stadium infrastructure matters have already been examined in detail. The site is one block away from the Pentagon City Metrorail stop, which serves both the Yellow and Blue Lines, the latter of which serves DC United’s current home of RFK Stadium. As far as parking, one proposal involved turning some of the temporary pick-up/drop-off lots for the Pentagon (located on the Army/Navy Drive side of I-395) into multi-level garages. Transportation to and from those lots and other surrounding commercial garages would be easily achieved by I-395 (which has exits close to the site) and Route 110 (which connects to I-66), obviating potential concerns of significant traffic spillover onto surrounding streets.
If both sides can get on board, DC United could finally get its long-sought stadium while Arlington gets the conference center that was appealing enough to have legislation approved for one on the very spot that still sits vacant years later. Though Arlington is currently riding a wave of commercial and residential development, county officials would do well to remember the downturns of recent years in the county. Shortly following the ballpark/conference center proposal, the much hoped-for conference center plan was shelved as Arlington dealt with the loss of businesses like USA Today and the Newseum as well as scores of government jobs via BRAC. Most municipalities don’t get another chance like they had with the ballpark-conference center opportunity, yet here appears to be another chance for a public/private partnership that could keep a major league team in the region as well as provide an element of economic diversification that could result in thousands of fans and thousands of conference center users putting income into Arlington County coffers on a regular basis.