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Lame duck Mayor Vince Gray is facing a tough fight convincing the D.C. Council to back the D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, but he shouldn’t have to worry about wooing Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. Until recently, Wells’ vote was assured, since the stadium will be in his ward. Wells wasn’t a passive supporter, either—-after the plan was announced last year, Wells sat down with LL and puzzled over how many councilmembers would need to be persuaded into backing the deal.
Now Wells has changed his mind. In an ominous change of heart for Gray and the soccer team, Wells tells LL that he’s leaning towards voting against the stadium now that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson‘s budget cuts streetcar funding. With Mendelson’s detractors saying that the streetcar line to Buzzard Point and the stadium is endangered by the switch, Wells says he can’t back the stadium if it lacks new public transit, even though it would be close to Metro’s Green Line.
“Now that the Council has gutted that, I can’t in good conscience support a 20,000-seat venue with no new transit infrastructure,” Wells says.
Without a streetcar, Wells says that the city should consider locating the stadium elsewhere and developing Buzzard Point’s industrial areas into residential ones. While Wells won’t be a permanent impediment on the Council to stadium plans—-he’s leaving his seat in January, after giving it up to run unsuccessfully for mayor—-he would be able to be part of any opposition while Gray is in office. A Gray spokesman didn’t respond to a LL’s call about Wells’ switch.
Wells says he isn’t concerned that moving the stadium elsewhere or quashing it entirely would stunt his ward’s economy.
“There’s $14 billion of development in Ward 6,” Wells says. “It’s not like we’re hurting for development.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery