News came out yesterday that the new mayor of Washington, DC, Vincent Gray, has all but promised that no public money will be used to help build DC United a stadium. This all but guarantees that if United is to have a new stadium in the metro area, it will have to be a part of a multi-use development project, much like the failed Poplar Point project. Martin Shatzer, of Black and Red United, is confident that Kevin Payne would never move United; I hope that he’s right. But, in the interim, could DC United do better at another facility in the metro DC area? We all know that they’re burning money at RFK, but is there another already built facility that could serve them?
As far as I can tell, there are only three stadiums in the DC Metro area that have over 20,000 seats. One of them, of course, is RFK. The second is Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland, where they play football and lacrosse. It currently holds 54,000 people. The final stadium that holds over 20,000 people is FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. FedEx Field is the largest NFL stadium in the country, holding over 90,000 people. The only other stadium that I could find that has even 10,000 seats is Howard University’s football stadium, at exactly 10,000 seats.
Would the benefits of moving to Maryland’s Byrd Stadium outweigh the negatives? At best, such a move could give DC United a more permanent temporary home where they could wait for the perfect stadium deal. At worst, however, it could be the equivalent of moving FC Dallas out to Frisco, completely undercut the fanbase, and lose any potential monetary benefit that United would have gained. Obviously, this is idle speculation without a look into DC United’s accounts, but I think that the PR price and the price to the fans of moving outweighs its benefits. I do hope, once they’ve secured a new stadium, United comes out and tells us how much the RFK rent actually was and if DC really was screwing them over.
One last random thought: If the DC City Council isn’t going to help with financing the stadium, I wish they would at least sell RFK and the land cheaply to United so that they could tear it down, play at Maryland for 2 years, and build a new stadium on that spot. But that’s even less likely than United moving to Richmond.