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Episode 112 – Area Chica

Join the guys in this special edition of the podcast as they talk DC United during the DC United vs Toronto FC match. The boys talk about the Black-and-Red’s recent luck on the road and their prospects in the upcoming playoffs.

Moreno brace completes 2-1 comeback win over FC Dallas

It’s clear the legs don’t generate the power and speed they once did. However, the intelligence and bravado have increased ten-fold over the years for Jaime Moreno. It was all on display this evening as Moreno played one of his best individual matches in his long United career. Moreno scored twice within a ten minute period mid-way through the second half to help United to a 2-1 comeback win over visiting FC Dallas before 14,225 fans at RFK Stadium.

For the first 45 minutes it was looking yet again like United was letting their opponent off the hook. Despite dominating the entirety of the first half with numerous shots scooting inches wide of Ray Burse’ goal or worse yet, Moreno hitting the post and having the rebound stickback from Clyde Simms frustratingly cleared off the goal line, it was the visitors who went to the locker room with the 1-0 lead from an Andre Rocha header off a corner kick in the 28th minute. Head coach Tom Soehn and his team did not panic and they stayed with the game plan of high pressure and flooding the attacking zone with numerous players.

Ten minutes into the second half United had their deserved equalizer. Bryan Namoff sent a long ball over the top of the FC Dallas defense and Moreno was inexplicably unmarked. Moreno’s first touch was clinical and he moved into the penalty area with only Burse to beat. His soft left-footed shot was almost saved but it trickled into the net. United continued to pour on the pressure and almost scored the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute. Luciano Emilio was sent through all alone on Burse. The Brazilian pushed the ball to the right of Burse in an attempt to round the keeper but his touch was too strong. Emilio got to the ball before it rolled over the endline and managed to get a good shot at goal but it too was blocked off the goal line. However, just six minutes later a bit of vintage Moreno magic would give United the game-winning goal. The play started with substitute Christian Gomez latching onto a pass deep in Dallas territory. His familiarity with Moreno was no match for the visitors as his no-look pass sent Moreno straight into the penalty area. With Burse charging out to cut down the angle, the intelligence and bravado spoken of earlier surfaced and his cheeky chip over the prone Burse settled easily into the back of the net.

The classy goal from Moreno shocked the visitors into action and took them from a team simply absorbing pressure to a team that needed a tying goal. The next 25 minutes were mostly spent in United’s half of the field with United settling on a defensive posture.  FC Dallas never really had any threatening chances though the debut of United keeper Milos Kocic made things interesting. The rookie goalkeeper from Loyola of Baltimore was under pressure mostly from dangerous crosses from Dave van den Bergh. Kocic punched when he should have caught and caught when he should have punched on several occasions but the most unsettling part of his performance was the lack of protection he was getting from game official Ricardo Salazar as the young Serbian was being battered left and right from Dallas players without a single foul being called. Kocic made it through the fire and gained his first ever MLS win.

D.C. United now goes on the road to play Kansas City on Wednesday night. This game will be on Comcast SportsNet at 8:30 pm. After that United will come back home to face Toronto FC at RFK next Saturday night at 7:30 pm. That match was originally supposed to also be on Comcast but is being bumped in order to televise Game 5 of the Caps/Penguins series, should it go that far. There are no plans to tape the match on delay or on another channel. Let’s hope for a Caps sweep of the Penguins.

United Notes

  • Jaime Moreno was  honored before kickoff for being the first player in MLS history to score over 100 goals and 100 assists.
  • United midfielder Fred was not at RFK Stadium due to his daughter having surgery on Saturday.
  • United co-owner Will Chang was asked before the game to comment on the stadium situation from an unnamed source in regards to which local municipality they are talking to. “We’re not talking to anybody, and no one is talking to us”.  Ouch…

United to stay in RFK homeless shelter after PG County spurns team

Bye bye, Prince George’s County

It seems that, on their own, the county’s council listened to some of the concerns I had about a stadium, and added some of their own. I’ve been around too many issues like this to have gone into this an optimist (sorry Mike). And Martin’s comment about this was right on; bureaucracy can do in the best of a deal, and on the surface, I’m not sure if this was the best deal for all parties.

No deal is a lock until shovels are in the ground, and really, not until the opening whistle on the first day the new stadium is opened. 

Team spokesperson Doug Hicks says United is talking with other jurisdictions.

Does this put DC back in play? Virginia? Another Maryland location? St. Louis? Ottawa? Hard to say. But I think the message from legislators is that they want the team to take the most risk, and the government to get the most reward. Governments want to assume as little risk – real or perceived – as possible.  

Somewhere in there there has to be compromise on both sides. 

DC United has to get a good enough deal to make money, and ultimately, so does whatever locality that decides on building  a stadium. 

After much fanfare, and with support from county legislators, some have reversed course. Are we surprised? 

Though I am, and remain, a pessimist about a stadium deal getting done nearterm, I do have hope. 

I just have the feeling that in this economic climate, the team and MLS are going to have to put up most, if not all of the collateral to keep the team in the region.

Build It and They Will Come

After the excitement of the press conference for DC United’s move to Maryland, there’s been quite a bit of negative feelings this week about United moving to PG Co. Even our own Jimmy Laroue seems to be skeptical, so let’s see if we can’t put a bit more positive spin on the move.

Unfortunately, this week got away from me and in 6 hours I’m leaving for 10 days, so I’ll make this short and sweet. I can’t just let it go as it would nag at me to leave so much negativity on the front page of the site. So here goes.

First of all, to address the majority of Jimmy’s concerns about the viability of the bill and its actual value towards DC United. A lot of those questions are answered by team President Kevin Payne himself in an online chat this week. Check out the full text at Behind the Badge I think he shows that a lot of these concerns are valid, but that the team is aware of them and that this deal is a good one for the team moving forward.

As for my take on the situation. It would seem to me DC United and PG County are both going to come out well on this whole situation. DC United will have the Maryland Stadium Authority finance the majority of the stadium with bonds to be repaid out of tax revenue, in exchange for overseeing the project and owning a 75% stake in the building until the bond debts are retired. While PG Co. gets to create gobs of economic activity and jobs in an area that is currently producing zero dollars of any kind and needs jobs desperately.

Seriously, that’s win-win for everyone which is why the press conference was so positive and had so many leading county figures saying it’s a no brainer to accept this deal based on the projections of the MSA’s study of the entire project and the deal they’ve put together which seems almost too good to be true.

So, that’s the rub for the skeptics out there. Is this deal just a pipe dream? You’ll have to decide for yourselves as I’m no economist for sure, but I think it’s important to note that MSA is truly an independent agent in this deal. They do work for the state in the sense that they are the experts on “stadium” type projects and their goal is to protect the state from boondoggles, but they have no vested interest in being optimistic and possibly putting the state at risk through reckless studies either. They also supervise the construction both to ensure the state gets what they bargained for, but also to protect the stadium users from trying to over-reach and do things not economically viable.

Both Victor McFarlane and PG County executive Jack Johnson pointed out that having the stadium Authority is an enormous resource to make sure things go right. Their projects typically come in under budget and acceptable to everyone concerned, as well as having excellent credit ratings and business connections so their bonds should sell no problem. Especially in an economy where investors are fleeing the stock market in droves.

McFarlane and county officials also both pointed out MSA was probably conservative in all their estimates to be on the safe side. The state’s bill based on MSA estimates states 1,200 jobs. Jack Johnson put that figure closer to 2400 in another quote that came out this week for example. Economic activity of 65-80 million is not unreasonable when you’re talking event day revenue alone approaching a cool million dollars (18,000 people spending 55 bucks on average buying tickets, food, beverages, merchandise, parking, etc at 60 events a year), without even factoring in ancillary things like hotel bookings and restaurant meals, job taxes, etc.

Plus, 60 events a year is doable for sure. 20 DC games, international games, women’s games, college games, concerts, county fairs, whatever. Some will be sell outs, some will be lightly attended, but an average of 18,000 per event should be pretty reliable. And even better, it will be a ton of people heading to PG Co. from neighboring jurisdictions to spend their money here. That’s new money flooding into an area that is now essentially empty of any economic activity.

Which brings up another concern. The dreaded loss of fans from NOVA. Sure, there will be some loss, but it likely will be picked up by gains from Maryland. Most estimates put NOVA fan base for DC United at 15-20% of their 20,000 total average fan base. Surely half those fans will still attend games in Maryland. Soccer fans are extremely loyal. So, even if United loses 10% from NOVA, it’s not hard to think they will pick up 2,000 fans from the new local area in PG, or Baltimore, Annapolis, etc.

As for the bill itself which is the first step in this process. Yes, it doesn’t take effect until June 1st. Big deal. All legislation in Maryland is subject to multiple readings and agonizing hand wringing. Makes no difference, they pass those bills toot suite when it means they can collect more moola from the general public. No one will start digging until the end of this year at the earliest anyway. Certainly this bill won’t hinder those shovels hitting dirt if it means putting off collecting revenue and taxes the state and county desperately wants, much less jobs and stimulus they desperately need.

As a Marylander, I wrote all my representatives about the stadium deal and the reply I got indicates that the deal only has to make it through the appropriations committee as large bond deals are subject to initial oversight, but then it’s in free and clear as individual bond deals are not under legislative control. Essentially, if I understand their answers correctly, the legislature has to allow MSA to issue the bonds, but once that permission is given, the legislature is out of the picture as it becomes a straight up business deal among MSA and various investors in those bonds.

Also, the bill has some interesting language that could be extremely beneficial to DC United if I’m reading it correctly and circumstances favor the team.

It states the stadium site is to be used primarily for Pro, collegiate, and amateur soccer games, concerts, community events, or other athletic or cultural events, so there doesn’t seem to be too many surprise events that might take precedence over soccer games. In fact, DC United is to have total control over the site usage except in the case of a lien against the original construction bonds. So, if United decides they need a tractor pull to make ends meet, at least they will be the ones making that call. Not anyone else.

Also, “Stadium” in context of bill is to include parking lots, practice facilities, access roads, infrastructure, and any other property, structure, etc. that is functionally related to the stadium itself. So it looks like there will be at least the possibility of parking lots for tailgating, and space for practice fields, etc.

It also appears the Stadium Authority will oversee the project; and own a 75 percent stake in the stadium itself for the duration of the bond term. But that DC United has authority over design, construction parameters, and equipment installed in said stadium. I take that to mean the stadium authority will be the supervisor of the project, but DC gets the final say on design and amenities as long as it makes fiscal sense. But, also that language about MSA’s stake only lasting until the bonds are retired is interesting and might mean United actually owns the building itself at some date in the future.

Another interesting aspect is that MSA is responsible for getting a lease on the land in order to build the stadium from the County OR from DC United’s owners if the owners actually buy the land outright before hand. Now, wouldn’t that be nice if McFarland and Chang actually buy up property in advance and lease it to MSA in order to get their own stadium built. For sure, it would be a sweetheart deal for both parties, United would have no incentive to gouge MSA, but it would certainly cut out any potential third party difficulties AND maximize the ownership group’s money flow.

However, either way, DC United is to pay sufficient rent for the stadium to contribute to building costs and infrastructure operating costs. This will be interesting to see how it plays out. DC pays rent at RFK, and only collected ticket profits, so that deal was staggeringly bad. However, Payne in the chat noted that even with rent at the PG CO. stadium, DC United will control all the operating costs and collect all the operating profits, so rent or leasing fees would be negligible. It might even be paid by tax revenue if the stadium meets expectations.

Also, opening a stadium by 2012 has been scoffed at. But, everyone concerned has said, they can be digging by the end of this year. There’s few legislative hurdles, there’s few opponents of the deal by people in power. If that’s truly the case, two years is easily enough time to build a stadium, especially at a time in America when construction costs are plummeting and most construction companies are scrambling for projects to do in order to stay in business. Two years ago, when everybody and their mother was building something, no. But now that 60 percent of construction workers in Maryland are laid off? I’ll bet there’s some companies that would love to hire back some workers and get the bulldozers rolling.

Finally, let’s allay the concerns about a name change. DC United will remain DC United. They may end up playing on Volkswagen field at Prince George’s County stadium, but the a name change for the team is not in the plans as team president Kevin Payne made clear in that chat this week.

“We have no intention of changing the most recognized name in American soccer. We have always thought of ourselves as a regional team — the fact we have season ticket holders from so many states proves that point! We will be very much a part of the community in Prince George’s County, but we will be D.C. United.” Payne emphatically pointed out.

Alright, enough for now. I’m getting on a plane in five hours now, and this is rambling on too long anyway. Bottom line for me is that DC United’s owners and organizers think this move is a good deal, and the power brokers in Maryland want this to happen. Fenty and DC Council apparently didn’t want the team, Maryland does. That’s enough for me. Let’s get it built and see who was smarter in the end.

Only the name remains the same

The press conference has come and gone.  The politicos and official team folks have waxed poetic about how a new Prince George’s County Stadium for DC United will bring scores of jobs and millions to the county. 

But it is really a good deal? And is it a good deal now? 

Whatever happened in DC, the city’s lost one team in the Redskins, and a second should everything go through as PG and DCU officials hope. Again, the District of Columbia dropped the ball on keeping a good community partner in the city – unless a desperation slide-tackle in the Maryland penalty area is successful, and even attempted. That being said, stadium financing and job creation by sports franchises can be a slippery slope also.

Questions, and these are only a few, that need answering:

Jobs – what kind of jobs are we talking about among these 1,000+ full-time equivalents, and how much would people be getting paid? Are these construction jobs, jobs for people after the stadium opens, both? Other? 

Projected revenues? – $5 million in projected tax revenue for the county and $65 million to $80 million of new economic activity in the county and state on a yearly basis? Don’t believe any of that until a stadium is open and you can see first hand whether or not the money is coming in. Studies, at least the ones I’ve seen about similar subjects, usually have loftier projections when they’re touting the good, and less-so when projecting the bad (re: Virginia’s budget deficit). 

Projected revenues II (who gets what) – Part of the reason for moving out of RFK Stadium is to make money, for the team to have its own revenues. The bill says that DC United and PG County are to come to an agreement “that the allocation of revenue from events at the Prince George’s County Stadium is set forth.”

Projected events – 60? OK, 20 of those would be United matches, about 10, maybe for a pro women’s league team should it still be around in three years and a handful for the University of Maryland men’s powerhouse. The rest of the events, it seems, the stadium authority would have to compete for – MLS Cup, MLS All-Star game, World Cup qualifiers and international exhibitions, College Cup, high school and festival-type events, concerts, etc. 

The bill itselfHouse Bill 1282 – that seems to be lost in all the hype. It was introduced Fri., Feb. 13 – yes, Friday the 13th – in the Maryland General Assembly’s House of Delegates by Del. Melony Griffith. No action has yet to be taken on the bill, which sits in the House Appropriations Committee and has had its first reading. State Sen. Anthony Muse is supposed to introduce the Senate version, but has yet to do so. The House version, as yet, has no co-sponsors. Bills must go through three readings in each chamber – once upon introduction, another time after it has a committee hearing (where it can be amended) and then a third time when a floor vote is taken. The General Assembly has 47 senators and 141 delegates.  The text of the bill says the county has already identified a suitable site for a stadium, even as the team said yesterday it will look over several.

The bill, if passed, would take effect June 1, 2009. 

Location – It seems to be mixed on whether its Northern Virginia fan base would travel further to PG County for matches. Some have said it would likely be a few minutes longer on Metro to get there and don’t mind the trip in exchange for a first class stadium, while others say it’s already far enough for them, and a longer trip would be too much. Has the team already identified the fans it might get to replace the ones that – while likely still remaining fans – will not be coming to the matches? Have team officials made any projections on how many fans it might lose? Surely if there are rosy economic figures out there, they’ve got some rosy figures for fan attendance too. 

2012 opening? – Sure, if ground is broken now a stadium could be completed by then, if not quicker, but that assumes all goes well, the economy recovers at some point and no one in Maryland gets cold feet.

It’s a good hope to see a flicker of light at the end of the stadium tunnel. But now’s not the time to stop being skeptical. Read the bill and keep asking questions. We will.

PG United?

Following a scuttled stadium deal at Poplar Point in the District of Columbia, DC United executives signaled their intentions Friday to move the team to Prince George’s County in Maryland and build a 24,000-seat stadium at a cost of $180 million to $195 million. Team co-owner Victor MacFarlane and team president Kevin Payne, will take part in an 11:30 a.m. press conference Monday at Prince George’s Community College where Sen. Anthony Muse and Del. Melony Griffith, members of the Maryland General Assembly, will unveil plans to introduce legislation to allow DC United to move to Maryland and work with the Maryland Stadium Authority to build a stadium. Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson will be among those in attendance. A report commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority said a new stadium would generate $65 million to $80 million annually. The stadium is to be paid for by DC United and new revenue generated by the team and stadium, according to a press release about the stadium announcement. The new stadium would not, according to the announcement, “draw on the existing tax base or require lottery funds.”