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Cost-benefit analysis of stadium proposal discussed at D.C. Council hearing

A public roundtable hearing of the D.C. Council Committee of the Whole broke down the cost-benefit analysis report released today on the proposal for a new stadium at Buzzard Point for D.C. United.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, in a three-hour public hearing that started almost an hour late, welcomed members of CSL International, Integra Realty Resources and the Robert Bobb Group to explain the findings of the Council-backed cost-benefit analysis report on the D.C. United stadium proposal.  The hearing was merely a presentation and explanation of the findings made by the three groups that created the report, with an appearance by Allen Lew, City Administrator, to explain the Gray administration's position on the benefits of a new soccer-specific stadium in the District.

After opening remarks by present councilmembers, including Chairman Mendelson (D), David Grotto (I-At Large), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) (Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) also joined the proceedings later), the panel of CSL International, Integra Realty Resources and Mr. Robert Bobb of the Robert Bobb Group took to the panel to explain their findings of the report that was released this morning.  Their main findings highlighted that the net new benefit to the District of Columbia would approach $243.4 million with the construction of the new stadium at Buzzard Point.  However, they also estimated that the District would be underpaid (in terms of market value) for the existing Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets NW while they would be overpaying for some of the lands in Buzzard Point necessary to build the stadium, to the total tune of a net $30.6 million "overpayment."  Contributions by Akridge and D.C. United brought the total "overpayment" estimate down to $25.7 million.

There was further discussion on the risks involved with pursing the stadium deal, with those possible risks compiled by the Robert Bobb Group.  Among the major issues of contention included whether the District would be responsible for any costs that exceed the $150 million that the District agreed to finance in land and horizontal acquisition costs; altering the terms of the land swap deal for the Reeves Center with Akridge; and whether the tax abatements and relaxing of property taxes for the team would be necessary for D.C United and the District to turn a profit.  in all, the panel concluded in the report that while the District would lose money on the overall market value for the lands involved in the deal, there would be an overall $109.4 million benefit to the District over the life of the 30-year lease.

Allen Lew, City Administrator for the Vince Gray administration, along with Jack Ross with the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer, were up on the panel next.  Jack Ross started with a scathing review of the financials involved in the stadium deal, arguing that because of principal owner Erick Thohir's purchase of Inter Milan last year and because of D.C. United's doubling in value (according to Forbes) from 2007-2012, tax abatements and easements on property and sales taxes were not necessary for the team in this deal.  Ross also indicated that the District didn't have the available capital needed to finance the deal.  Allen Lew, who has been the Gray administration's point person for the stadium proposal, countered with the many benefits that a stadium for D.C. United would bring, highlighting more jobs for the District and more sources of revenue with the many events the stadium could hold.  Questioning between Chairman Mendelson and Lew became contentious at times, with Mendelson saying he took "offense" to many parts of Lew's testimony.  Lew also faced questions from Councilman Tommy Wells regarding alternative sites in the parking lots of R.F.K. Stadium and comparing land acquisition costs at Poplar Point.

With the Council hinting that public forum roundtables were forthcoming for the public to offer testimony as early as next week, this is surely not the last public forum for Black-and-Red supporters to offer their thoughts on the cost-benefit analysis report.  If those public forums are scheduled (by Chairman Mendelson or Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser), we will post the dates and times of those events so that supporters can make plans to attend, as they may be the last chances for fans to express their opinions of the stadium proposal to the D.C. Council.