My public testimony before the Committee of the Whole

Earlier this evening, the DC Council's Committee of the Whole had a public hearing at the Wilson Building. Unlike last week's meeting that wholly centered around discussion of the independent cost-benefit analysis report that was released, this meeting allowed the public the chance to offer their own testimony on the stadium deal. Over 30 people offered testimony in person to the Committee either in support or against the proposed stadium deal. I was there to offer my thoughts on the stadium deal, and I have decided to include that statement below.

If you were not able to make it to the public hearing this evening, you are still able to submit written statements to appear on the public record. To do so, copies of your written statement should be submitted to the Committee of the Whole, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 410, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004. The record will close at 5:00pm on Thursday, November 27, 2014 (Thanksgiving Day).

DC United Stadium Proposal Public Testimony – November 13, 2014

My name is Donald Wine II, I’m a resident of the State House Apartments located at 22nd and Massachusetts Avenue NW, in Ward 2 here in the District of Columbia. I am the President of the American Outlaws DC Chapter, the largest chapter of the largest supporters group for the U.S. National Teams. I am also a field team member for the Screaming Eagles, a supporters group for D.C. United. I am in favor of Bill 20-805 and while you will hear several people discuss the various benefits and risks to the Stadium Development Act, I’m going to focus on the stadium itself as well as a couple big reasons why I feel this proposal is a good deal for the District.

First off, soccer-specific doesn’t mean soccer-only. This stadium will not just be open for the 17-18 DC United matches each season. The new stadium would be able to hold several events, including but not limited to college football, college soccer, concerts, outdoor festivals, national soccer teams, college and professional lacrosse and even rugby. These events will bring hundreds of thousands of people to the District and would mean millions of dollars in revenue each year, money that will benefit the District directly.

D.C. residents aren’t the only people who will frequent this stadium. People from all across America will travel to D.C. to attend events in the new stadium. Currently, a group from Richmond and parts south of D.C. already travel up every week for D.C. United matches. The U.S. National Team has played more matches in D.C. than in any other city in the nation. With a new stadium, we know that D.C. will remain in the regular rotation of cities that US Soccer will choose to host its home matches and important tournament qualifiers, drawing fans from all 50 states. It will keep the "RVA DCU" crew coming up week after week for United matches. They will rent hotel rooms, they will spend money at restaurants and bars, they will utilize the District’s public transportation, taxis and D.C.-commissioned car services, and all of that will keep dollars here in the District.

In the sports world, fans of opposing teams list the stadium among their top reasons for traveling to watch their team play in another city. D.C. is already one of the most visited places in the world. A beautiful stadium at Buzzard Point will be the darling of MLS and the envy of not just the soccer world but the sports world. D.C. will forever be a must-see destination for MLS fans as well as fans of any team that would play in the stadium.

The Stadium Development Act of 2014 is a good deal for the District. It brings much needed money into the District and develops an area that won’t otherwise be developed for as many as 10 years down the road. And, it will be easily the best stadium in MLS and also enhance what is already the best home field advantage in American soccer.

To touch briefly on the land swap deal, as you know, this is a necessary provision for the deal so the District does not run up on its self-imposed debt ceiling. Many people have suggested that the District auction off the Reeves Center to raise the necessary funds to buy the land needed for the stadium. What auction advocates overlook is a pretty major issue: most city building auctions fail to bring in the type of cash the building was thought to be worth. The Pontiac Silverdome, the 80,000-seat former home of the Detroit Lions, was thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars. It was auctioned off in the hopes it would bring in $50 million, which is less than the market value for the Reeves Center. In the end, the highest bidder won the Silverdome for $583,000, which was less than it cost to buy a home in the closest neighborhood to the stadium, about 1/2 mile down the road. Not only would a Reeves Center auction add 2-3 years to the project timeline, it’s more likely to bring in less money than the District would get via the land swap provision.

This is our last shot. D.C. United has been trying for over a decade to land a new stadium. They’re losing money every single year even as the sport of soccer grows exponentially. If there’s no stadium, it’s a real possibility that the team will leave for greener pastures, which would leave the District as one of the few capital cities in the world without a professional soccer team. Cities like Las Vegas, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Sacramento are close to approving soccer-specific stadiums of their own and they haven’t even applied formally for a MLS franchise. The time is now for D.C. to step up and take care of a team that has been uplifting the District through not only its play but its charitable work in the community for almost 2 decades.

No deal is perfect, but this deal is one that will benefit the District and its residents for decades to come. Let’s keep the Tradition going…let’s keep D.C. United. I strongly encourage you all to approve Bill 20-805, the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014. Thank you for your time and consideration.