Stadium Subsidies Everywhere

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
April 23 2013 3:09 PM

D.C. United Happy to Pay for Its Own Stadium as Long as It Gets Free Land

SW DC

After I read the headline "Top official for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray optimistic about D.C. United stadium deal" I immediately became pessimistic. What irrational stadium subsidy scheme ls going to be inflicted on us? But then the article beneath the headline optimistically claims that "D.C. United has agreed to pay for the cost to build a stadium that would would accommodate at least 20,000 fans and also host non-soccer events including college sports and concerts." Great news. Sports team wants a stadium, so the team's going to pay to build the stadium. American capitalism at its finest, right?

Well, there's a catch: "Neither the District nor the team, however, controls the site where the stadium is being planned, a little more than a block southwest of Nationals Park, and the team has made no commitment to pay for the land or roads the stadium would need."

It turns out that the only thing standing between D.C. and a shiny new soccer stadium is a bit more than 10 blocks of free land. That's quite the gift. And in a city whose politicians claim to be obsessed with affordable housing, it's a bit odd. If the city's willing to invest in new transportation infrastructure and doesn't think industrial or quasi-industrial uses of this land are important, why not offer up some infrastructure to encourage developers to build some houses? Seems like it'd be a great opportunity for something aimed at a lower price point than most of the luxury-oriented development we have in the city. After all, there are only 34 games in a Major League Soccer stadium. So D.C. United would be using this stadium for 17 days out of 365. What are we going to do the other 348 days? That's a lot of college sports and concerts.

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Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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