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MLS Nov 03, 2015

Really real: D.C. United stadium project inches forward as city spends $25 million on land acquisition

WASHINGTON – D.C. United fans have heard so much talk about a new stadium for their club, and so little action, over the years that many have vowed not to believe that the project will actually happen until they see “shovels in the ground.”

No one has broken ground on the soccer-specific stadium planned for the Buzzard Point neighborhood of Southwest D.C. quite yet. But last week the District of Columbia government spent more than $25 million on its latest round of land purchases for the project, acquiring 67,436 square feet from private landowners Super Salvage Inc. and Rollingwood Real Estate LLC (the latter a property of local real-estate magnate Mark Ein), as reported by the Washington Business Journal.

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The purchases, which amount to around $379 per sq. ft. and $403 per sq. ft. respectively, bring the city two steps closer to full control of the footprint on which United’s future home will sit.

WBJ reports that the city expects to close a $39 million deal with utility company Pepco for its segment of the land next week. Meanwhile, property developers Akridge – the biggest losers in the deal since Mayor Muriel Bowser removed the sought-after Reeves Center from the complicated stadium deal – saw their two-acre plot at Buzzard Point seized via eminent domain on Sept. 30.

That process has moved to the D.C. Superior Court, where the city hopes to prove that $21 million (which amounts to $241 per sq. ft.) is a fair price, while Akridge is arguing for a much higher number.

In all, the land acquisition costs are slated to run to about $85 million for the city, which is also responsible for preparing the site for stadium construction, which is being funded and overseen by D.C. United. The D.C. City Council has capped the city’s financial commitment at $150 million in all, which is about what United expects to spend on the stadium and some adjacent mixed-use development projects.

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United hope to move into their new home before or during the 2018 Major League Soccer season, which is expected to kick off in early March.

Another issue on the horizon for the Black-and-Red: Identifying a permanent home for its training grounds and youth academy program. The senior team currently trains at RFK Stadium’s auxiliary fields, while most of the academy’s activities are based at Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Virginia, a bit more than an hour’s drive to the west of the city.

The Buzzard Point site has no room for training fields, and it’s unclear whether the club is interested in pursuing a separate public/private partnership for a training facility.

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