Instead, the focus in both our city and the county will be on encouraging economic development and increasing the tax base to try and bolster anemic public services. These are, obviously, worthwhile goals, but what, exactly is going to spur this development?
In public discussions by various County Executive candidates, one of the ideas floated is the need to develop areas around the County's metro stations. But develop what? More shopping malls? The Beltway Plaza Mall and Laurel Centre Mall have seen better days and aren't unique in their decay in the County.
There is certainly no guarantee that a soccer specific stadium is going to be an economic boom; fair questions continue to be raised about whether the Red Bulls' bold experiment in Harrison will be a long term success. But a soccer stadium that is home to a routine attendance of 15,000 people has to hold some promise for income and business generation if appropriately designed and situated. As the anchor for development near a metro station, a soccer stadium would seem to be a better bet then any major store chain.
But no major politician -- in the District of Columbia or in Prince George's County (or Montgomery County or Northern Virginia, for that matter) -- appears to be too terribly troubled by D.C. United's plight or capturing some of the money leaving out of the pockets of fans supporting the team.
Crossroads Consulting Services' 2008 report on the potential economic impact of a stadium in PG County, commissioned by the County and the Maryland Stadium Authority is available here. The report contains a lot of stuff, much of which just recounts the obvious, but there are some interesting nuggets in it. For example, the report includes the consideration that any soccer specific stadium would also service a professional lacrosse team. The other local professional men's soccer teams -- Crystal Palace Baltimore and Real Maryland -- did not enter into the equation as potential tenants. There is also a useful summary of various stadiums in the MLS and events that they've held.
And there is the University of Maryland's purported attitude towards the project two years ago:
UMD officials expressed their general support of the proposed new stadium and cited that the need may exist for a soccer facility in Prince George’s County based on the historical popularity of the sport throughout the Mid-Atlantic region at all levels. Based on our discussions, it is likely that the UMD would be able to utilize the proposed stadium for specific games against major competitors. In addition, utilizing the proposed new stadium in conjunction with existing UMD athletic facilities would provide the opportunity to host more collegiate level tournaments. With respect to a potential site for the stadium, UMD officials indicated that proximity to its campus would provide for more complementary uses of both organizations’ facilities.
UMD representatives indicated that development of the proposed new soccer stadium could also be a recruiting benefit for UMD athletics based on the school’s proximity.
90 pages into the study the relevant numbers are finally flushed out:
The estimated economic benefits as measured by spending, earnings and jobs are summarized below. The total incremental spending (direct/induced/indirect) to the area related to operations of the proposed new soccer stadium is estimated to range from approximately $65.4 to $79.9 million annually.
Full-time employment to be created by the stadium is estimated as numbering between 1,080 and 1,320 people, putting it on par with employment at the Target Corporation and Chevy Chase (now Capital One) Bank in the county, and tax revenue for the state and county predicted as being between $5 million and $6.2 million per year.
The one line summary of the report is as follows:
. . . the proposed facility has the ability to provide a strong return on the investment associated with on-going operations . . .
Now, maybe all of this was bogus, as I have no competence to evaluate the claims, but it seems ridiculous that this has dropped completely off of the radar for local politicos. And not following up may reflect a lack of knowledge about the dynamics of the sport or faith in professional soccer's staying power. Or perhaps this is just the end product of a lack of political leadership. My bet is on apathy, but what do the reasons matter? The end result is the same, we ain't got a home.