Thoughts on United’s march and stadium hunt

First of all, I want to apologize. I haven’t been posting nearly as much and I wish I had a better reason than the reason I am about to elaborate, but I don’t.

The reason that I have gone into a bit of a funk lately is that all I can think about is DC’s disastrous stadium hunt situation and that I cannot get out of my head the belief that they are just playing out the clock towards either selling/moving the team or just folding up shop if no buyer is found.

I should also add that I think that Saturday’s march was a good thing, whether it was 500 or 1,000 actually marching. Anything that prevents United from simply going quietly into the night is a good thing at this point.

That said, it doesn’t change the primary issue which is that it’s unclear that anyone in the DC area actually wants a soccer stadium and that even if they did, it’s unclear if our ownership is willing to pony up “the going rate” for stadiums in other markets.

Are there areas where a stadium could happen in terms of transit access and space? Sure, Shady Grove and the areas around the future Loudoun County Metro stations all fit that profile. But here’s the problem. Explain to me how United can escape traditional cycle of United stadium plans which is:

  1. United announces or leaks plans to begin stadium planning in Location X
  2. Stadium opponents both, in and out of office, immediately cry waste and get favorable column written for them by Post’s Marc Fisher
  3. Electoral officials who may have privately supported United’s effort begin to waffle as pressure against stadium rises in local area
  4. Stadium deal quietly peters out as officials tell DC that they could never support this kind of deal publicly without risking their seats because while stadium proponents live all over the DC area, opponents are mobilized within relevant voting districts.

How does United break that cycle? Well, I always thought the answer was by getting the deal done in DC where it has always been easier to strong-arm development items into fruition even if the public isn’t terribly supportive. But right now, there is no evidence that Fenty cares one bit about United staying, leaving, or even existing. His electoral prospects don’t change one iota no matter what happens.

So that leaves the suburbs, with the associated problems that come with it such as potentially reduced transit links and increased risk of NIMBYism. There are faint rumblings (WTOP) that United is talking to officials in Northern Virginia – a state with an undefeated record of chasing off stadium projects whether it be the Redskins’ attempt at Potomac Yard, Arlington’s approach for the Expos/Nats, A-ball baseball at Dunn Loring, or even a new practice facility for United.

Maybe United can break the streak. I suspect they’re dealing with Loudoun County towards the Western end of the new Metro expansion. Loudoun has long been the scene of development battles, but unlike elsewhere in Northern Virginia, sometimes the developers occasionally won there. That said, that area has seen failed projects including Disney’s America, an Atlantic League baseball stadium, and a horse racing track. Can United change some history out there?

Maybe, just maybe. But, I think United needs to be more active than the perception they are sending out seems to indicate. I talked to Will Chang before the Dallas league match and he used he pretty much made it sound like the situation isn’t in their control. They ought to stop sulking and try and regain control of the situation. They ought to be talking to these counties. They ought to be communicating in some manner with fans so that more fans like me don’t get their heads down about the process and the club’s dwindling attendance doesn’t shrink even more. The nauseating silence on the part of everyone on the stadium matter is not inspiring confidence in anyone. The club needs to make clear its future both for next season and the ones beyond. While a certain degree of strategic silence makes sense, I can’t get over the thought that our ownership and management (ever prone to the occasional bout of arrogance) is doing a bit of pouting while waiting around (likely in vain) for a new suitor to “beg” them to come to their town. It should be clear by this point that isn’t going to happen.

My prediction: The team is safe through 2010 and then it is either sold and moved or simply folded, finally turning off the spigot of losses out of the ownership’s pockets.

Not to get too “Bill-O” here, but if DC management is reading this and saying to their monitors, “this guy is full of shit,” then give me a buzz and let’s talk about it, here on the site, on the record. If you want to stem the pessimism, if you want to quash the rumors, then talk to me, talk to Goff, talk to the BizJournal – talk to someone. Right now, I and many other people around the league don’t think this organization will get it done. If we’re all wrong, tell me why, and then most importantly, prove all of us wrong.

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on United’s march and stadium hunt

  1. Lord knows we feel your pain down here in the Houston, Texas area. Our Dynamo have been doing their dead level best to work with the city and county to make a SSS happen to no avail. It seems like it’s something new every time that they meet with the city and county officials. I mean one of the last things that one of the county commishioners demanded was a say over ticket prices. Something that they didn’t seem to care about as they built the Astros, Texans and Rockets their palaces to play in. I hope for the best in both our situations. Between DC and the Dynamo, we have a lions share of the titles and no place to call our own. I always thought success breeds success, guess not in our 2 cases.

  2. I think we are beyond dealing with NIMBYism here in the DC burbs. We have lapsed into BANANAism.

    BANANA = Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.

  3. Aaron, you’re assessment sounds as if you view the stadium situation as half empty. I completely disagree with you. I think it’s half full… of shit.

    DC may get a preliminary discussion going with a county in VA or MD, but MLS will step in a move the team without hesitation. I think Garber wants to flex his muscles and wants to use DC United as an example to the league (particularly with respect to expansion cities who do not have an SSS plan).

    He’s done it once with San Jose, a team that didn’t necessarily have the same fan base as United, but had won championships. I think he’ll do it again.

    Of course, DC United will keep its “history,” but the franchise will move to another city.

  4. TCompton:

    Keep in mind, the Quakes then re-emerged two years after moving, and without an SSS. They still don’t have that deal. So we very well may lose United, but I think that within a few years of this departure, we will have a good chance of getting the team back. Where they will play then is a problem, but hopefully they can get something done.

    However, I don’t think we should be packing it in quite yet. Fenty may be getting desperate about the Poplar Point situation, and, if this economy does not improve, may turn to United and MacFarlane as a last resort. Or maybe the Skins and United can sort of “swap”; Skins get to rebuild RFK, United gets to demolish and rebuild the Fed.

    At this point, nothing is clear about the situation. But I can’t believe that Garber would so willingly move us without any second thoughts. San Jose was one thing. But DC United, and its fans, are something special. There is no way, I think, that the MLS just ships us out to St. Louis without thinking twice, especially considering we had the best fans in the league for 12 years- and we still have the best supporters’ groups.

    My take: MLS give United a couple more years after 2010 to get it done, and, with any luck, the economy will have improved by then, allowing United to get a deal done SOMEWHERE.

  5. +1 on not packing it in. I can’t think of any stadium with the exception of the (basically) privately funded Home Depot Center that wasn’t built without a real struggle.

    Rio Tinto had its own redevelopment plans, and in the end only the stadium itself was built (at least for the time being). Look how Philly’s original stadium renderings compared to the actual design.

    Victor and Will need to be convinced that they can build a less expensive facility and still have a jewel on their hands. Is the difference between a Rio Tinto and a Red Bull Arena worth the 100 million, either in public or private money? You would imagine if FC Dallas can pull a profit as a standalone facility, surely building a stadium around a community could work for them.

    Just my two cents.

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