Many D.C. United supporters groaned when the club agreed to move the June 7 match against the Columbus Crew to FedEx Field in order to be part of a doubleheader with the Spain-El Salvador friendly. Switching venues disrupts the game-day routine and causes transportation headaches. RFK Stadium is no jewel, but it is easy to access and offers a soulful setting absent from modern arenas like the Redskins home.
For some season ticket holders, the discontent grew when they received their new seat assignments: They were placed in sections with comparable ticket prices rather than similar proximity to the field. So instead of sitting — or standing — within shouting distance of the players, they are in the upper deck. Others were assigned low-angle locations directly behind the goal.
“Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to be put in the best seats, but I didn’t expect to need an oxygen tank and binoculars,” said Aaron Kahn, a season ticket holder. “It’s just disappointing.”
Kahn says he sits 26 rows deep on the noisy side at RFK, but at FedEx he was placed on the top level (section 453).
Donald Griffin, a longtime season ticket holder, echoed Kahn’s concerns.
“If you’re going to play at FedEx, try to put your season ticket holders in a similar place to RFK,” he said. “This is your base of support. You would think they would do a better job accommodating the people who care the most.”
Season ticket holders will need to use two passes to attend the doubleheader: the ticket for the Columbus game and a special game ticket, which is included in the annual package.
United officials said Saturday they have received no more than 20 complaints about the general arrangements concerning the venue change.
“It’s a big shock because you are going from a 47,000-seat stadium to a 75,000-seat stadium,” United chief revenue officer Mike Schoenbrun said. “It’s a two-ticket match, which they are all aware of, and based on the price of the [single doubleheader] ticket, season ticket holders are actually getting a better value than if they actually bought at FedEx. So we tried our best to match apples to apples” in pricing categories.
The face value of a ticket in the upper deck is $60. The combined cost of the two tickets required for season ticket holders to gain admission to FedEx is $54.
The Redskins, who own FedEx Field, control the seating manifest for the doubleheader and are selling tickets in the lower bowl for $100 and more.
United officials said they are allowing fans to exchange the June 7 seats for additional tickets to other regular season matches or to a home game in the CONCACAF Champions League, which will begin in August.
“We’ll work with anybody that is not happy with the situation,” added chief operating officer Tom Hunt, who, in interaction with fans, said he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the doubleheader. “The seat location wasn’t an issue with the people I spoke with, but if it is, we’ll address it.”
Said Schoenbrun: “It’s a great opportunity to see Spain a week before the World Cup. That is why we are doing this — to give our fans added value. Not everything is going to be perfect, but we want to make it as perfect of an experience as possible.”
D.C. fans are are also worried that most in attendance will head home after the early Spain game, leaving empty sections in the lower bowl and many die-hard supporters stuck in the upper reaches for the United nightcap.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to sneak down,” Griffin said.
*You may have noticed United has switched benches at RFK. Two reasons, Ben Olsen explained. First, MLS mandated greater distance between the respective technical areas. So United’s usual location — on the right side of midfield, if you are watching from behind the benches — is now further from the tunnel to the locker room. Second, Olsen said he no longer prefers being in the path of the assistant referee running the half of the sideline in front of the bench. Influencing decisions only goes so far and Olsen said he would only get himself into trouble by being in the ear of an official all the time.
*Through the first month of the season, United is 17th among 19 clubs in attendance with an average of 11,270. Only Chivas USA (10,004) and the San Jose Earthquakes, whose home capacity is 10,525, are lower. United posted the worst turnout in the league each of the past two weekends. The club is home again this weekend as the arch-rival New York Red Bulls visit RFK on Saturday evening. Last year United recorded the lowest average in club history (13,646), a 35 percent drop since 2007.
*Due to the rain, United postponed the open practice at D.C.’s Cardozo High School today. The team plans to set a make-up date.
*Video of Michael Seaton‘s early goal and Kyle Porter‘s second-half brace in Richmond’s 3-1 USL-Pro victory over Pittsburgh: