Kudos to Prince George's County and efforts by officials there to lure the D.C. United professional soccer team to suburban Maryland. Several sites are reportedly under consideration, and if the new stadium is made more convenient to a Metro subway station than the parking profit center known as the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field, the project could be a real economic asset for the county and state.
But the idea that the Maryland Stadium Authority might borrow money to underwrite a significant portion of this project seems dubious. It's one thing to commit taxpayer money to building an attraction like Camden Yards and supporting Major League Baseball, a highly lucrative enterprise with a national following.
Professional soccer in the United States has been around for just over a decade and, while it appears to be on a recent upswing, it has suffered its share of financial setbacks.
It is possible that D.C. United games would generate enough profits from concessions and souvenirs to allow the project to pay for itself, as supporters claim. But that's no sure thing, and other major public works projects, such as the Intercounty Connector, have pushed Maryland close enough to debt limits to recommend caution.
Residents of Prince George's County often feel like Montgomery County's poorer cousins. A new stadium might help the county raise its profile and better compete for jobs with its richer neighbor. But that alone can't justify the project.
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty wasn't willing to commit public funds to building a stadium and keeping the team in his city, and that ought to raise a red card to even the most die-hard soccer fan. The economic realities of such a project - as the stadium authority's market analysis last year pointed out - make it, at best, a long shot of a development opportunity.