February 16, 2009 3:24 PM
LARGO — Prince George’s County and D.C. United officials guaranteed Monday that not only would the Major League Soccer team move to Maryland, but a new stadium would not cost county residents more in taxes.
“I emphatically want to repeat this again,” said United Executive Chairman Victor B. MacFarlane, who alluded last week to the team’s commitment. “We want to be in Prince George’s County and we will be in Prince George’s County.”
About 100 people, including several United players, attended a news conference Monday at Prince George’s County Community College to hear officials detail how that was going to happen.
“We understand that we cannot ask for one dollar from this tax base,” said MacFarlane. “We cannot and we will not — I promise that.”
Del. Melanie Griffith, D-Prince George’s, said she wanted to dispel rumors that new taxes would pay for the stadium.
“That is not the case,” she said.
Instead, officials said the team, which now plays in Washington’s Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, will pay for 25 percent of the estimated $180 million to $195 million in construction costs while the remainder will be funded by state bonds. Those bonds will be paid back from the tax revenue the 24,000-seat stadium is expected to generate.
MacFarlane said officials expect the stadium to be open for the 2012 season at the latest, and possibly as early as midway through the 2011 season.
Griffith and Sen. C. Anthony Muse, chairman of the Prince George’s County Senate delegation, are sponsoring bills in the Maryland General Assembly that would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to sell bonds to pay for the stadium.
When asked about a plan “B” if the stadium did not generate the revenue it was expected to, MacFarlane admitted the state would “be on the hook” for the cost of the bonds. But he stressed that the county was following conservative economic impact estimates based on a study commissioned by the stadium authority, and noted the stadium would also host at least 40 events per year in addition to the 20 MLS games.
According to the study, incremental annual tax revenues from stadium operations would range from $1.8 million to $2.2 million for the county and $3.2 million and $3.9 million for the state.
“The only way this stadium doesn’t generate revenue is if there are no events,” MacFarlane said.
According to team statistics, D.C. United averages about 20,000 fans per game. While Prince George’s County residents do not make up the highest percentage of attendees (that honor belongs to Virginia’s Loudon County), United President Kevin Payne said a “significant” part of the team’s fan base comes from here.
Team and county officials will be looking at sites during the next 30 days and said at Monday’s news conference they hope to have a decision on a stadium location soon after. While they would not talk about specific potential sites, they did say they were looking for a 12-acre space that would be conducive to creating an entertainment destination and residential community around the stadium.