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Joining the Poplar Point debate

When the news about new developments at Poplar Point started coming out earlier this week, I honestly wanted to stay out of it and just keep this blog related to soccer on-the-field only. I swear! But there's been so much confusion by fans in the Insider community that I can no longer resist jumping in to try to clear some things up.

First of all, it's completely ludicrous for fans to write this off automatically as a bad deal for United. The deal has a lot of potential, regardless of who actually winds up owning the stadium. Even if United has to lease the stadium from the District or from Clark Realty, it can still be profitable for the team.

Here's an analogy for you… Just like we trusted the front office on dealing with the foreign transfer market this offeason, because it's what they're best at; now we need to trust United's Ownership on dealing with real estate, because that is what THEY are best at. Victor MacFarlane and Will Chang didn't make all of their money by accepting poor deals that don't benefit their organizations. They know a good deal when they see one. If this is a good deal, they will take it. If it is not, it's off to continue the search in Maryland.

What's nice is that we now have some decent bargaining power since we've been looking in Prince Georges. Now that DC knows that we have some options, that we're no longer at their mercy, things will get done. And if a deal is worked out to build a stadium at Poplar Point, there is certainly no reason to assume that the team will be treated as poorly as they have been treated at RFK. Fenty has said that United will have to contribute a portion of the funding to get the stadium built. Well I have no doubt that the cost of rent and the percentage of shared revenue from tickets, concessions, and parking will be a part of MacFarlane's negotiations with the District. Again, if they can't work out something that's profitable, United will just go somewhere else.

Whether a stadium is built in Maryland or in DC, I don't see how we could possibly be playing in it before the start of the 2011 season, and more likely 2012. Regardless of location… First there will be environmental feasibility studies. Then we have the design stages. Has anyone even hired an Architect yet? If we're building in Maryland, then the team will probably have to hire an Architect and GC themselves. If it's Poplar Point, then I'm sure the team will have some input into the design, but probably not total control. Then construction will take no less than 18 months. There's also something to be said for the fact that Clark Construction will surely be the general contractor if Poplar Point is the location. With the Nats stadium behind them, we know that Clark has the talent to deliver a stadium on time. You could do a lot worse than Clark Construction, and there's no guarantee they will be utilized as the GC if we build in Maryland.

What I find strange is the media's reporting of the story as a whole. The major story here is not explicitly a soccer story. The major story is that Clark Realty won a competitive bid for Poplar Point for $2.5 Billion. That's a huge story for the area south of the Anacostia River, and will be great for the community whether a soccer stadium is there or not. We also know that the DC Government will contribute $250-$350 Million in infrastructure costs related to the new complex as a whole, not just the stadium (let's just call it $300M for now). That amount of money will also be spent whether or not a soccer stadium is included. What remains under discussion is the $190 Million that the City might be contributing to build the stadium. That is the only money that would be additional if the stadium deal is approved. If you add all of that together, the $190M for the stadium is only 6.35% of the total cost of Poplar Point. So why has the media spent so much coverage on the stadium when it's less than 10% of the new project? Well I guess because that's what people are most interested in. But for DC residents who do not understand the deal, it looks like the City is spending around $490M for a soccer stadium after just spending $611M for a baseball stadium. That makes it look like a bad deal, but it's just not true.

In the end, we have to manage our expectations, but keep in mind that Ownership will do whatever is best for the team. This doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but……. I trust the Owners. I trust the Owners...