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D.C. United's Proposed Buzzard Point Stadium: Top 5 Impressions

We toured Buzzard Point last week, now here are our impressions of the challenges and opportunities the location presents for D.C. United, its fans, and the District.

Buzzard Point, the reported home of D.C. United's new stadium.
Buzzard Point, the reported home of D.C. United's new stadium.

It's been almost exactly two years since reports first surfaced of D.C. United's interest in Buzzard Point as the home of the team's proposed new stadium. Last week, we took a photo tour of Buzzard Point to give you a look at this part of Washington, DC. While walking the area, we also developed some strong impressions of the challenges and opportunities Buzzard Point presents. Here are the top 5.

1. When (not if) D.C. United finally makes its long awaited stadium announcement, it won't be the end of the process, but simply the beginning of the public negotiation phase. I wrote last month about my hope that D.C. United would announce "a finalized stadium deal" during the month of January. It doesn't appear an announcement will occur this month, but even if one did, I now realize it won't be a "finalized" deal. Having walked through the neighborhood, it struck me how many stakeholders will have a part in this deal: the property developer, Akridge; the District government; the Federal government (due to both its special role in governing the District and as a neighbor to the stadium site with both the US Coast Guard Headquarters and Ft. McNair on Buzzard Point); local residents in the area; local business owners; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; the Washington Nationals; and others.

Given the number of interested parties involved, it's not surprising that private negotiations have been ongoing for so long. But after a stadium announcement is made, interest groups on all sides will get involved publicly, and debate will occur. Opponents will emerge against a stadium, and pro-stadium voices will have their say as well. Votes will have to be taken by governmental bodies such as the District City Council on a number of issues including selling property, re-zoning property, raising revenue, upgrading transportation, etc (the private money D.C. United is reportedly prepared to spend on the stadium should help with many of these issues). This isn't a criticism of the process or of those involved. It is just a realization for me that a public phase of the deal is coming after the big announcement, and it could be lengthy (see the process that unfolded for the San Jose Earthquakes' new stadium).

2. Transportation planning is key to the success of this project. As mentioned in last week's article, managing the flow of traffic onto the Buzzard Point peninsula, as well as facilitating public transportation and pedestrian traffic from the Metro system, is crucial in this relatively remote part of the District. For driving onto Buzzard Point, South Capitol St and Potomac Ave SW appear to be the main arteries, with 4th St SW, 2nd St SW, First St SW, and Half St SW also providing connectivity from the north. With the exception of South Capitol St, however, all of these roads are narrow roads through residential or light industrial areas. Additionally, the pedestrian routes from the two nearest Metro stations (Navy Yard-Ballpark Station and Waterfront-SEU Station) are either inadequate for the thousands of people who would walk to the stadium, or are non-existent in the case of the route from Nationals Park. Additionally, figuring out how to get all the pedestrians across the main traffic arteries onto Buzzard Point (to include South Capitol St, M St SW, and 4th St SW) seems to be important as well. Although, if you've walked the route to FedEx Field from the Morgan Boulevard Metro Station you know what it's like to walk on inadequate sidewalks forcing pedestrians onto roads, increasing the safety risk and the frustration level for all involved.

3. Will the proximity of the proposed Buzzard Point stadium site to Nationals Park preclude both teams playing at home on the same date? Since the southwest corner of Nationals Park will only be about 1/3 of a mile from the northeast corner of the proposed Buzzard Point stadium site, it seems logistically unlikely that D.C. United would be able to play home games at the same time as the Washington Nationals were playing at home. If, as has been speculated, D.C. United seeks to use the parking garages at Nationals Park to help with parking for their new stadium, it wouldn't be possible to play at the same time as the Nationals. In 2012, seven of D.C. United's 17 regular season home matches were played on the same day that the Nats were playing at home (with an eighth conflict being avoided when the Nats postponed a game against the Marlins on Apr. 22, the day D.C. United beat the New York Red Bulls 4-1). These two teams know how to work together given that they shared RFK Stadium for the Nationals' first three years, so this isn't a problem that can't be overcome. But, D.C. United may not have complete scheduling freedom at their new stadium due to these issues.

4. Pay attention to environmental remediation costs! The land parcels reportedly involved in the D.C. United Buzzard Point stadium deal include the Pepco power plant site and other industrial sites (including what appear to be construction sites and junkyards). These are the kinds of sites that can require expensive environmental remediation to bring them up to today's code when they are renovated or even when they are demolished. No doubt D.C. United and others involved in the project will fully assess the properties to know what they contain, but finding a surprise environmental problem once construction begins can be very costly and time consuming to fix.

5. There are challenges to building a stadium at Buzzard Point, but it could really be a great location. Yes, there are challenges at the Buzzard Point location. But there would be challenges anywhere. If it wasn't going to be hard, D.C. United would already have a stadium! But, with the team now reportedly bringing private funds to the table to pay for a stadium, the opportunity exists to really build a first-class facility in a historic part of the city that would be a great place for the team and its fans, while revitalizing the local area. Developing a "stadium district" with the new D.C. United stadium just down the road from Nationals Park, and linked to the Waterfront area within easy walking distance, is a vision the city and the other stakeholders will hopefully get behind when the public phase of the negotiations begin (trusting that will be soon).

What do you think the most hotly debated issues will be when the public phase of the stadium negotiations begin? What else would you like to see alongside a new stadium on Buzzard Point?