D.C. United appear to be inching ever closer to an exit from RFK Stadium, and the club could begin construction on a new stadium sometime in 2013, according to club president and CEO Kevin Payne.
Payne and head coach Ben Olsen appeared on WAMU radio’s popular Kojo Nnamdi Show on Wednesday to discuss a number of issues surrounding the club, perhaps none more important than the idea of where and when D.C. will finally suit up in a soccer-specific stadium.
“Our hope is that before this year is out we will have some clarity on a stadium plan,” Payne said on the program. "We certainly think it’s feasible that we could get underway with a stadium construction project next year."
Discussions regarding a new stadium for United are nothing new, but the talks have been significantly amplified since Erick Thohir and Jason Levien were introduced as new investors in July (right). In partnership with existing investor Will Chang, the ownership group has made it clear they have the financial resources to pursue the project.
Where the stadium will be built, however, is another matter.
“We’re talking to Baltimore and we are talking to D.C.,” Payne said. “… We’re having very good conversations with the District and I feel very encouraged. At the same time, we’ve been treated very respectfully by Baltimore and the Maryland Stadium Authority, and we’re having serious conversations with them as well. Our position is that we need to have a new stadium. For our business, that is something that has to happen.”
Payne also went into detail about a possible plan that could see the stadium constructed at Buzzard Point, which would place the facility at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and just blocks away from Nationals Park.
“Buzzard Point is one site that we’ve discussed with the city,” Payne said. “It makes a great deal of sense from an urban planning standpoint. A lot of money has been invested in infrastructure for the baseball stadium and there’s tremendous growth happening.”
Above all else, Payne made it clear that RFK Stadium, which opened in 1961, is not a sustainable option for United. He said if you asked him “as a fan,” Payne hopes his club could be playing in a new stadium by 2015.
“We’re not a sustainable business at RFK. … I’m absolutely convinced that we will end up with a home that is appropriate for our team and our fans,” he said. “I think we will enter a new renaissance at that time. Right now it’s difficult for us to compete against some of the other teams in the league because we don’t have the revenue opportunities at RFK.”
Midway through the show, Nnamdi jokingly asked Olsen if he’d consider running for mayor of D.C. to speed along the process of bringing a new stadium to the area.
“I have too many skeletons in my closet for that job,” Olsen said.