I caught up with D.C. United President Kevin Payne after practice Thursday, and with the lease at RFK Stadium extended for two years and the buzz about Buzzard Point spreading, guess what we discussed?
On the decision to cover the infrequently used upper deck with sponsored tarps: “We’ve been planning that all along this year. We just felt we should wait to talk about it when we had a bigger story to talk about [the lease]. ... I wouldn’t necessarily say we are close [to signing sponsorships], but we are talking to some people.”
As for selling the naming rights to the playing field: “We’re just beginning that whole process.”
How would the sponsorship revenue be divided between United and Events DC, which manages RFK?
“The details of how it would be shared were not in the short form of the lease. We will figure that out. It may be on a case-by-case basis depending on what the sponsor wants delivered.”
With the lease negotiations completed, you must be encouraged about a long-term plan to remain in the city?
“I am a very optimistic person, so I have always been optimistic that we will end up with a stadium deal that works for the long-term benefit of the team. Where that will be, we don’t know yet, but I certainly look forward to sitting down with the city and talking collaboratively about how we can come up with a proposal. We are still talking to Maryland [about the prospects of a stadium in Baltimore]. I don’t mean that as anything other than a fact.”
Payne declined to categorize how far long the talks have progressed between the club and D.C. government.
“It’s a process. We’re talking. Events DC has been helpful.”
On the subject of Buzzard Point and the proposed location blocks from Nationals Park, Payne said: “We like the idea of being in the stadium district. It probably makes sense to have more facilities than just a baseball stadium, but I have not confirmed -- and I don’t intend to confirm — that particular pieces of land in that conceptual document that you guys [The Post] saw are the parcels we are talking about. There’s a lot of stuff [in those 2010 plans] that are highly unlikely to happen. Ninety percent of what you saw, we have nothing to do with.”
In the almost two years since those plans were formulated, has much changed?
“Our position is that we like the ballpark district idea. ... We are still considering something in this area, but we are open to any conversations the District wants to have about other locations, if there are any that might make sense.”
Meantime, in team news.....
*Coach Ben Olsen confirmed Joe Willis will start in goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday at Home Depot Center (7 p.m. ET, Galavision). No surprise there. Top-choice Bill Hamid is on U.S. under-23 national team duty and will probably miss three league matches. Andrew Dykstra will serve as Willis’s back-up. More on the goalkeeping situation in Sunday’s print edition (available online Saturday).
*As expected, reserve center back Ethan White underwent surgery on his right knee and will miss about six weeks.
*Newly signed English midfielder Lewis Neal is still about 10 days from receiving his work visa and won’t travel with the club to Los Angeles or Vancouver for the next two matches. After the Galaxy match, United will train in California for several days before traveling to British Columbia for the March 24 match against the Whitecaps.