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What, If Anything, Does The MSA Report Tell Us About A New D.C. United Stadium?

Now that the Market & Economic Study for soccer stadia in downtown Baltimore (a.k.a D.C. United's possible home in 2012 or 2013) has been released, I glanced through it Wednesday night and again in putting this post together. On the surface, it seems like Shatz' position is that Baltimore's report would be beneficial for the community, regardless of where the community is. But maybe within the report itself, the report could be played towards the team's benefit when it comes to a SSS in (or closer to) the District if such a venture would be pursued. How so? Read ahead.

I'll say that for disclosure's sake that I know not very much about feasibility reports and that my perspective on it may not be bright as others. But there were some things to be taken away from the report about how attractive D.C. remains as a market, or at the very least how a move to Baltimore might be a regression of sorts.

First off, the metropolitan and market areas for Baltimore are half and less than half (respectively) for D.C., and the per capita income in Baltimore is 3/4 of what D.C. contains. With a stadium in downtown Baltimore it would represent more of a "destination" trip for those in Maryland than in Virginia, and they would presumably not spend as much while at the stadium as a result. Baltimore would represent merely average per capita income while having a metropolitan market slightly bigger than the Rapids and a media market slightly better than Real Salt Lake.

Want more numbers? Washington's metro area population growth was more than a third over the U.S. average in 2000-2009 and more than double than that over Baltimore's metro area, with projections making it more than triple Baltimore's growth over the next five years.

What's in Baltimore's favor? Well, looking at the dollar figures and comparables, consider the following recent (or coming arenas):

Houston's stadium will hold approximately 21,000 fans and cost approximately $95 million.

Kansas City's SSS would hold 18,000 (with possible expansion) and cost $165 million, part of an apparent complex in the city.

San Jose's new digs would hold 18,000 and cost $60 million (privatedly owned and financed).

Red Bull Arena holds 24,000 and cost $165 million (privately owned and financed).

Philadelphia's PPL holds 18,500 and cost $120 million (part of a $500 revitalization project along the Chester waterfront).

Baltimore's proposed 25,000 seater would be part of a $1.1 billion redevelopment along Westport, just off of I-95 before making the turn towards the Ravens and Orioles stadia. One would think the team would get close to the $200 million that it had asked D.C. for in the past as part of Poplar Point, and would seem to keep all of the financial benefits. Good on them.

What benefits would there be? Some information would seem to run contradictory to any hope they may have towards investing money into a SSS, should one get there. 88% of surveyed Baltimore area would NOT invest in Suites in a D.C. United SSS and 74% would NOT invest in Club Seats. 73% wouldn't even buy Season Tickets. It might go without saying, but just in case, further data shows the D.C. businesses and sponsors wouldn't travel with the team up 95 either, to say nothing for the majority of the ticket-buying public in Virginia and those who live in the city with the club.

However a lot of other Baltimore positives seem to be intangibles. They anticipate "implementing a full marketing blitz to support the move," but blitzes like that gave us "We Win Trophies" and "It Takes More." Effective, but now fodder for the on-field product. Additionally, the more concerning part for local fans is this excerpt:

The team expects to pick up fan support in Northern and Western Baltimore and Delaware to make up for and exceed any expected fan base loss from the Hispanic population in the D.C. area, Loudoun County, Virginia and some Northern Virginia fans.

Considering that arguably the two most successful (or pleasant surprises) of last season came from two of those particular areas (Honduran born Andy Najar and Annandale's Bill Hamid, to say nothing of Loudoun native Conor Shanosky joining the roster this year) as Homegrown products, DCU management would seem to be taking its Latino demographics for granted, perhaps as far back as the Raul Diaz Arce trade. Why they woud go to an area that has a Latino population one-fourth the size (or risk alienating what's appeared to be a decent Homegrown pipeline) is almost jaw-dropping, and wouldn't seem to be a smart decision for a team whose league attendance has grown (on average) by 5% a year since 2006.

There is little doubt that a stadium for D.C. United would serve to be a financial benefit and job creator wherever it may be. And perhaps this was done to help paint a picture for the incoming D.C. City Administration. Either way, to get the maximum bang for the (literal) buck and take as full and complete use of the talent pipeline that would sustain the club's overall health, a facility in (or close) to the District would be an even bigger benefit than what's stated in the study. Here's hoping Will Chang can secure some local investors and the new administration can work towards keeping a group that's served the city faithfully ... in the city.

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