Testimony of Wes Rivers, Policy Analyst, At the Public Hearing on B 20-805, The District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014

Chairwoman Bowser and members of the Council, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Wes Rivers, and I am a policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on how policies impact low-and-moderate income families.

I am pleased to testify here about legislation to develop a new soccer stadium for DC United. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is part of the Winning Goal Coalition, which believes that professional soccer is an important part of the quality of life in our region, and that DC United needs a new home. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute also understands that virtually all professional sports stadiums are built with some level of public financial support, and so we accept that the DC United stadium will need some public support.

The question then becomes whether the legislation and associated documents represent a good deal for the District and the best way to bring a new soccer stadium to the District. It is important to remember that while a new stadium will be a great cultural benefit, there are other private stakeholders that stand to gain direct financial benefits, including DC United’s owners and Akridge — the proposed developer of the Reeves Center and current landowner at Buzzard Point. DC United’s owners will benefit from increased tickets sales, control of concessions, naming rights, development of entertainment venues adjacent to the stadium, and an increase in the team’s value.  Akridge will benefit both from the booming development of the U and 14th Street corridors, but also from their landholdings adjacent to the proposed stadium site at Buzzard Point.

Today, I will focus my comments on the land swap aspect of the agreement, with a specific focus on the redevelopment of the Reeves Center. The proposal for the Reeves Center is, in my opinion, as important as development of a soccer stadium itself. Yet the Reeves Center is being treated in this legislation like a Monopoly property, to be traded for cash.

In exchange for parcels at the stadium site, the District would transfer the Reeves Center to Akridge and allow the company to re-develop the property any way it wants. Yet the redevelopment of public property should involve planning and community input that leads to some guidelines for the property’s future use. In addition, the legislation would trade the Reeves Center to Akridge at a price below the value from at least one of the appraisals, which suggests that putting it up for sale could generate a better return to the city. Finally, the plan calls for creating a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet it offers no details and no financing.

To read the complete testimony, click here.