Even Soccer Teams Can Shake Down Taxpayers For Subsidies
Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has made business relocation subsidies a trademark of his administration, and is now setting his sights on the D.C. United soccer team.
Over the past three weeks, representatives for the team have been touring potential sites in Loudoun County and meeting with state and local officials to discuss details, even though D.C. has already offered United nearly $200 million in subsidies to build a new stadium in the capital, The Washington Post Reports.
In an email obtained by The Post, Loudon County economic development director Buddy Rizer told team officials Virginia is prepared to offer the United a “viable and profitable deal” to build a new stadium before the 2017 season. (RELATED: McAuliffe Sets Record for Business Incentive Deals)
Last year, the D.C. Council approved a plan whereby the city would provide up to $150 million in land and infrastructure for the new stadium, as well as $43 million in tax breaks. United will cover the nearly $300 million cost of construction, which would make the stadium the most expensive in all of Major League Soccer.
The deal has not been finalized, however, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has sought to add provisions to the deal protecting the District against risks such as cost overruns and the possibility that the deal falls through.
A source familiar with the negotiations told The Post that while they have not publicly objected to Bowser’s efforts, team officials are a bit miffed at her demands, which may have contributed to their decision to entertain other options. (RELATED: Virginia Legislators Resist Bailout of ‘Corporate Welfare Fund’)
If the team does decide to relocate, Virginia may well be an appealing destination. According to the email sent by Rizer, “A Loudoun stadium, before any public involvement or incentives, is at least $38 million less expensive than a stadium in D.C. with incentives over a 30-year period.”
Moreover, much of the club’s fan base is already located in Northern Virginia, so the move would not require the United to rebuild a following in a new market.
Nonetheless, some fans in D.C. see the relocation talk as a betrayal of the team’s oft-stated commitment to staying in the District. In a post on the Black and Red United blog, a fan site owned by Vox, Adam Taylor said the news “leaves me feeling betrayed and angry.”
Even if the whole drama is merely a negotiating tactic by the United, Taylor says, it is still not fair to the fans for the club “to wield the threat of moving out of the city as a cudgel.” (RELATED: States May Have to Disclose Business Subsidy Costs)
Whether or not the United are serious about the arrangement, McAuliffe and Virginia certainly seem sincere, according to Washington Business Journal. In addition to courting the United, the article notes, McAuliffe has also attempted to woo the Washington Redskins, who are also considering a new stadium.
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