When Bob Short whisked the Senators from Washington after the 1971 season, he claimed fans wouldn't support the team because they were afraid to go to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
Since then, several club owners have cited Short's broadside as a reason for not giving the area another franchise. But Short's statements and the owner's stock in them appear largely exaggerated when fans are consulted.
People like RFK Stadium.
There are some complaints, but they are far outweighed - often by the people who make them - by praise for the District's 55,000-seat, 16-year-old sports facility.
In a Washington Post survey on 1,017 Washington area residents who said they had attended at least one professional sports contest the past 10 years, more than 80 per cent said they had been to RFK at least once.
Of that group, 84 per cent had favorable comments about the stadium. Mentioned most often are comfortable seats, contemporary design, accessibility and widely held feeling that there is a good view of the action from every seat.
"It's a very good part of the community, and I love crowds," said a 29-year-old District man. "That's why I'd love to see baseball back here. I've always liked that stadium. The design is really nice and it'll be so easy to get to on Metro."
At the same time, 15 per cent (mostly Virginians) of those surveyed complain about accessibility to the stadium; 20 per cent complain about parking fees, parking jams or ther parking-related problems, and 12 per cent about the neighborhood around the stadium. There is also some grumbling about concession prices and warm beer.
The complaints about the stadium's neighborhood generally stemmed from people's perception of it as a crime-ridden area - a fear that police suggest may be out of line with actual crime problems in the neighborhood.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department said last week, "It's not what you'd call a crime area. The primary reason it (crime) is so low there is that there is not a whole lot around there."
He also noted that in the past two years, many houses near the stadium have seen renovated and are selling for such high prices that Police Chief Maurice Cullinane recently remarked he soon could not afford one. U.S. Park Police, who have jurisdiction over the parking lot and surrounding parkland also confirm the low crime rate.
Overall in the survey, 41 per cent had negative comments about RFK, half the number who had good things to say.
Many of the complaints mentioned by fans, especially those dealing with the stadium's No. 1 problem, parking, may be largely eased when the stadium subway stop at East Capitol and 19th streets - about two blocks from RFK and just west of the D.C. Armory - opens in July.
Of those who now complain about access to the stadium, 66 per cent say they would use Metro to get there, presumably ending access problems for them.
Of those complaining about parking, 69 per cent said they would use Metro, thereby potentially ending the parking problems for others who continue to drive to games.
Of those who complained about the neighborhood, 71 per cent said they would use Metro. So, assuming Metro is well policed and efficient, it could have a major effect on travel to and from the stadium.
Ted Lutz, general manager of Metro, said The Post poll results are "encouraging and not surprising" because in Metro 14 months of operation there has been virtually no crime.
The subway now runs 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, but Metro expects to have it eventually operate on weekends and much later at night, Lutz said.
There is a $63,000 contingency fund for fiscal 197 from which Metro plans to finace some experimental, special trips to RFK for a major event or sports contests, he said.
It is not likely funds will be available for transportation to night and weekend sports events regularly until fiscal 1979.
Lutz said he expects no major problems in handling large crowds going to or leaving the stadium, but that the first real test will be handling a large percentage of the 55,000 people swarming out of the 55,000 people swarming out of RFK after a Redskins game some Sunday afternoon.