Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Certainly Should Not Be Making a Phone Call

By Marc Korman.

A recent Gazette article highlighted Councilman Knapp’s efforts to resurrect the DC United stadium in Montgomery County. Councilman Knapp said “we certainly ought to be making a phone call,” meaning to DC United. I hope that the rest of the Council disagrees.

Councilman Knapp’s goal to bring DC United to Montgomery County marries two poor ideas I have written about before, the soccer stadium and a Montgomery County arena.

All of the negatives of putting the stadium in Prince George’s, including the costs and infrastructure needs, exist in Montgomery County too. The stadium would not pay for itself and would require borrowing, through the issuance of bonds, by the county and the state. Neither level of government can afford to increase its debt load for an amenity.

An arena in Montgomery County has also been studied by the overzealous Maryland Stadium Authority. As I wrote last year, that study failed to take into account two important factors. First, it did not account for the costs of construction or infrastructure, which was the same problem as the soccer stadium in Prince George’s. Second, the study did not fully account for competing venues in the region.

Councilman Knapp is one of the few elected officials championing the idea of an arena in Montgomery County. He is using the Prince George’s County Council’s wise decision to reject a soccer stadium as an opportunity to advance his pet project. He is advancing his goal by trying to minimize the infrastructure problem by putting a DC United stadium closer to the Shady Grove metro than the arena study’s presumed Germantown location. But even with Metro access, further infrastructure improvements would be needed. A DC United stadium would also need about double the capacity of the 8,000 to 10,000 person arena studied for Montgomery County.

Adam Pagnucco has done a terrific job documenting the state and county’s budget problems and the massive transportation needs and I need not repeat them here. But I hope it is as obvious to Councilman Knapp’s colleagues as it is to me that when the Council is facing a deficit, debating furloughs, and discussing shutting down nighttime access to police stations, a soccer stadium is not a serious option.