Soccer Outsider on D.C. United’s stadium proposal

July 30, 2013

Two years ago, I introduced the D.C. United Armageddon Clock.* At the time, the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight, a symbolic reference to our proximity to the armageddon scenario of United moving to Baltimore. That’s why Baltimore’s own Duff Goldman from “Ace of Cakes” is pictured in the 12 o’clock spot.

With the announcement of a preliminary deal between D.C. United and the city to build a stadium at Buzzard Point, I am setting the clock back … way back. I’m setting it to Old Person Dinner Time — just before 5 p.m.

Because this is good news for D.C. United. The only question is: how good? How real is this? There was a long flirtation — some would say “tease” — with Poplar Point, at one point, the team almost became P.G. United, and at another point we seemed close to building Avon Barksdale Arena in Baltimore. Is this latest announcement anything serious?

I think that it is. This feels different because the mayor’s office is heavily involved. This isn’t Anthony Williams supporting a stadium the way one supports abstract, unachievable concepts like world peace, or Adrian Fenty ignoring any stadium that didn’t already have seats available for hoarding. This is a mayor identifying an economic development project to put on his resume as the next election approaches. Gray is putting himself on the line. There was a news conference, an announcement and a signed document. Gray looks foolish if this doesn’t happen. He’s obviously betting that this will happen.

Obviously, city needs always trump soccer needs: even I, a D.C. United fan, will need to be convinced that this is a smart allocation of limited city resources before I’m on board. But a good starting point for the argument for a stadium is pictures 3-8 in this slideshow. Those pictures show Buzzard Point as it currently exists: what seems to be a gravel pit next to a weed-growing facility. This is not exactly a historic neighborhood. The people in photo 8 look like the most lost tourists ever (“This doesn’t look like the Air And Space Museum. What do you think the ‘NW’ next to the address means?”). There used to be a comedy show in that part of town; the most exhilarating part of the night came not while I was on stage, but when I would make the run to my car at 1 a.m. with a pocket full of $20 bills. Whether this stadium is the right project for the area or not — and that remains to be seen — Buzzard Point could use some development.

If this stadium happens, we can expect the on-field product to improve. The simple fact is: revenue = goals (usually). The full chain goes like this: stadium = revenue = happy owner = bigger budgets = a Greyhound ticket for Lionard Pajoy = high-priced foreign import = goals. D.C. United can’t make money in RFK Stadium. As long as that’s true, we can expect to have teams cobbled together from the discount bin like this year’s abomination.

Speaking of this year’s abomination: they lost again. Instead of doing a full match diary, I’ll boil it down to this: Luis Silva looked excellent, Jared Jeffrey looked solid and Conor Doyle looked a little like Jack McBrayer, which could be a promising source of jokes going forward. Player ratings: Willis: 5. Kemp: 5.5. Woolard: 5. Jakovic: 4. Riley: 4. DeLeon: 6. Jeffrey: 6. Thorrington: 7. Porter: 4. Silva: 8. Doyle: 4. Nyassi: 2. De Rosario: 7.5. Pajoy: 2.5. Nice to see Pajoy get in there because it’s difficult for me to blame everything that goes wrong with this team on him when he’s on the bench.

But the stadium announcement is the best thing to happen to D.C. United since Christian Gomez. The location is perfect; it’s not in the burbs — which suppresses attendance in Chicago, Dallas and New York — it doesn’t require a two-year exile at the Maryland Soccerplex and it wouldn’t make us wonder if maybe the team should be called NOVA United. It would greatly improve the fan experience. It would make us more competitive in the designated-player era. It would let us stop disrupting the habitat of the raccoons and squirrels that are overrunning RFK. And it would let me take the Armageddon Clock off the wall forever.

* Some see a resemblance to a clock published by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Specifically: the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ lawyers — who are knowledgeable in law but obviously not in parody — see a resemblance. I see no resemblance.

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