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D.C. United close to stadium deal with city, but city council challenge awaits

WASHINGTON – The Washington Post reported on Monday that D.C. United and the administration of D.C. mayor Vincent Gray are close to agreement on the specifics of their plan to build a new, soccer-specific stadium for the club at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C., some two miles south of the U.S. Capitol.

The news, based on anonymous sources likely cultivated within the city’s government, is a promising sign for area soccer fans eager to see the $300 million plan (half coming from the city and half from United) come to fruition.

But is long overdue given that the general framework of the stadium deal was announced nearly a year ago, in a hastily convened press conference at a Buzzard Point parking lot.

[ +READ: Hall of Famer Len Oliver speaks up for D.C. United stadium: “We will all benefit” ]

And the biggest hurdle still remains, and looks as daunting as it has since that surprising summer morning: Whatever final agreement United and the mayor’s office reach must be approved by the D.C. City Council, a notoriously chaotic and unpredictable body.

And that task appears to have grown dramatically more difficult now that Gray has lost the D.C. Democratic primary election to council member and stadium plan skeptic Muriel Bowser, making him a lame duck with less than a year left in his tenure at city hall.

United, Gray and Allen Lew, the veteran administrator who is city’s point person on this project, have missed a bevy of self-imposed deadlines as they juggle the complicated process of finalizing the details of their partnership while negotiating selling prices with the owners of the land upon which the stadium will be built.

The plan is based on an ambitious land swap between the city and the Akridge real estate development firm, with the centrally-located but decrepit Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center being swapped for Akridge’s plot at Buzzard Point.

[ +READ: D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, D.C. United announce plans for world-class soccer stadium ]

That linchpin of the deal has drawn great scrutiny from city council members, several of whom believe the Reeves Center is undervalued in the plan, and may become a flashpoint when Lew and Gray present their completed agreement to the council at some point in the weeks ahead.

D.C. United logo“Once the team and Gray finalize the agreement, the deal still faces a number of political hurdles and a frenzied time frame if it is to be approved by the D.C. Council before Gray leaves office at the end of the year,” writes Post reporter Jonathan O’Connell.

“D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) have criticized the idea to trade the Reeves Center and Bowser, who chairs the economic development committee and is the Democratic nominee for mayor, is likely to play a central role in the council’s consideration of the legislation.”