Today, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has asked the Maryland Stadium Authority to study the possibility of building a stadium for DC United in the city.
Up front, I’ll tell you that I don’t think such a plan has any chance of ever breaking ground. Baltimore’s officials are still beaming over the big attendance for the AC Milan vs. Chelsea friendly in late July, but this is an entirely different ball game. There are so many other major concerns for the city and its people right now that such a project wouldn’t seem prudent. And it’s not as if this hasn’t been tried in Maryland before.
But forget the city side of it for a second. For those reading this who are not familiar with this part of the country, you may think that Baltimore-Washington is one big metro area. And while they aren’t far apart, a good 30+ miles separates the cities. Remember how some were yelling about not going to United games had they moved to Prince Georges County, just outside the city, early this year. Not living here, you can’t even imagine the traveling hell fans would deal with trying to go from Northern Virginia to Baltimore on a gameday. It’s a long trip at best, and given the traffic issues that plague this area, getting there on a weeknight would be absolutely out of the question. There is commuter rail between the cities, but it’s night schedule is on the light side and there is no weekend service presently.
New home for United? Seems unlikely.
Then there’s another side of it. Baltimore isn’t simply just Washington’s shiny, happy neighbor. Sports-wise, they may as well be 1,000 miles apart. Baltimore has its own football team again, which people here take crazy pride in. The Orioles have long been a focus of the city in baseball, and bad as they’ve been this decade, it isn’t like they are going anywhere. They still play in a gem of a park and will for the next 30 years, at least.
Could Baltimore support an MLS team by taking DC’s team? Sure. The base of sports fans here is strong enough to make it happen, I think.
But that’s just it. They’ll support their team. Not necessarily DC’s team. A few of us do, but not as a massive group. DC United as we know it can’t continue to exist if it plays its matches in the city of Baltimore. Some sort of rebranding would be necessary, whether simply becoming Baltimore United, or changing the name entirely to more reflect the city’s history or what it’s best known for. Though Baltimore United sounds way better than Charm City FC, or the Baltimore HarborHawks.
As a United supporter who attends games, either one or two a year, or as a season-ticket holder … would you support Baltimore United? Or any other new version of the club playing in a sweet new home with 20,000 seats? If Baltimore ends up being the only option for a new stadium that the club needs, will you make the trip? It’s a moot point for me, I live near Baltimore and I’d still go. But then, I’d make the journey if they played in Northern Virginia, too.
In the end, it might be a discussion over nothing, because I’d be really surprised if such a project ever got off the ground. But it’s not as if there are many other glowing options right now, either.
Even if it came to pass and United continued on in a new home, even with that home being much closer to where I currently live … something about it would seem really strange.