O'Malley wants funding to study D.C. United stadium in Baltimore

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Local,Maryland,Brian Hughes
ANNAPOLIS - Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is quietly exploring the prospect of wooing men's professional soccer team D.C. United from the nation's capital to Baltimore, and a panel of state lawmakers gave the go ahead to those efforts on Thursday despite concerns from fiscal analysts about the cost of the endeavor.

In his supplemental budget released this week, O'Malley included $175,000 for a feasibility study on building a new soccer stadium in South Baltimore. A budget conference committee met early Thursday and left the funding untouched, meaning the initiative will go before the General Assembly during the final days of the session.

The measure caught some off guard, as the state already has funded previous studies for a Baltimore stadium -- and since multiple sites have been proposed in Prince George's County as well.

"If additional studies are required, the team or Baltimore City should cover the costs," said a report from the state's Department of Legislative Services.

Some critics said O'Malley should have stayed out of the development altogether, accusing him of showing favoritism to a city in which he used to be mayor.

"What a shocker -- the governor's trying to deliver another big prize to Baltimore," one Prince George's County lawmaker told The Washington Examiner. "He shouldn't be putting that type of money into yet another study. Let somebody else pay for it if it's so important."

The Examiner repeatedly asked O'Malley's office why the governor felt the study should be funded by taxpayers, but his office declined to elaborate on the reasoning for the potential investment -- or why O'Malley opted for a Baltimore study instead of proposed sites in Prince George's County.

"No comment right now as we are still evaluating the impact," O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory emailed.

D.C. United officials previously said they the might move away from RFK Stadium, citing the mounting expenses of operations at the former Washington Redskins home. But the club recently signed a lease to keep the team at RFK until 2013.

If the study were approved by the full General Assembly, it would examine a 20,000-25,000 soccer stadium as part of a waterfront redevelopment in Westport.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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