United Seeks Stadium Solution
Garber Concerned About RFK Conflicts
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2004; Page D01
Faced with the possibility of D.C. United sharing RFK Stadium with a Major League Baseball team in the near future, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said yesterday that a plan to build a medium-sized soccer complex needs to become a priority.
"We've got to get busy here and get a facility for a team that has been one of the great brands for soccer in this country," he said in a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters.
"We can't continue to play back seat to baseball and have to figure out our future based on what Major League Baseball decides is going to happen. We've been here since 1996; we've been the major tenants at RFK. We've got a great relationship with the mayor and with the sports commission, but we've got to get a deal done as quickly as possible."
Citing scheduling conflicts and having to play on a surface that would include a dirt infield, Garber said United would have a difficult time sharing 55,000-seat RFK with a baseball team if the Montreal Expos move to Washington next season.
The MLS and MLB seasons run from April to October. Baseball officials are hoping to announce next month where the league-run Expos will play next season.
"We would have real challenges making RFK work," Garber said. "That being said, we've got to evaluate all our options and figure out what we can do to ensure that this team continues to be successful here."
Garber said the possibility of baseball coming to the city should accelerate the urgency of completing a plan for a proposed 25,000-seat stadium for United.
But if a deal can't be reached, "then we'll continue what we are, which is a tenant in a good soccer facility but not a facility that can compete with the other soccer stadiums that are being built across the country," he said.
"The fans of D.C. United deserve it, the team deserves it and it is a real focus for us to get it done. . . . We've been assured that the needs of D.C. United will be addressed at the appropriate time."
Mark Tuohey, the new chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, responded to Garber's comments by saying, "I share Don's enthusiasm and we are committed to making the interim situation for both teams work. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with D.C. United."
Officials from MLS, United and the city have been discussing a soccer stadium for several years. In April, United President Kevin Payne and Mayor Anthony A. Williams participated in a pregame ceremony at RFK to express their support for a joint stadium project to be completed by 2007.
The two locations under consideration are the RFK parking lots and an area near the South Capitol Street Bridge at Poplar Point as part of the city's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.
Garber wouldn't discuss specifics, but said the recently announced soccer stadium deal in Denver is a 50-50 partnership between public and private groups.
A Washington project would involve United's primary investor, Anschutz Entertainment Group, and Akridge Companies, a local developer.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company