Redskin President Edward Bennett Williams said yesterday he has grave reservations about plans for an exclusive dining club at RFK Stadium that could permit potential customers a chance to leapfrog 10,000 fans already on the waiting list for season tickets.
Last month, the D.C. Armory Board sent out invitations to Redskin and Washington Diplomat season ticketholders and other potential customers, offering "the best seats in the house at Washington's sports events," in exchange for a one-time $5,000 membership fee, plus annual dues.
Williams said he has been told the new facility would take away 161 existing seats. He also is concerned that the proposal would enable those with the requisite cash to jump the line.
Asked if he expected listed fans to be angry about the plan, Williams said, "I would think so. There would be (fewer) seats to move up on. I think it would present a problem if we were asked to provide tickets to persons not on the list.
"I think it is a little misleading to tell them (potential club customers) to join a club if they don't have tickets for a game."
Williams said that, to the best of his knowledge, no one associated with the Redskins had talked with the Armory Board about providing tickets for club members.
Bob Sigholtz, general manager of the D.C. Armory/Starplex said, "I didn't know there were any reservations."
"Do you think we would do this without coordinating it with our tenants?" he added. "It was coordinated with the Redskins and the Dips before this came out and everyone thought that a cantilevered stadium of 20 years, if it's not modernizing, it's going backwards."
Sigholtz said, "We haven't done anything with the waiting list because the Redskins are so sensitive about these things." He also said that the ticket holders in the existing 161 seats "have been given an opportunity to join."
Otherwise he suggested those ticket holders could be given priority on any vacancies that occurred.
Sigholtz said that the Redskins had handled the initial mailing to their season-ticket holders. "I would think that is some knd of approval," he said. s
"I got it in the mail, an invitation to pay $5,000 to join the Stadium Club, which I promptly threw in the garbage," Williams said.
The plan, designed by Food Sevice Management Co. of St. Louis, which has installed similar clubs in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, calls for remodeling the unused baseball press box into a three-tiered dining facility overlooking the playing field.
Steve Murphy, concessions manager at RFK Stadium said that so far deposits have been received from 26 prospective members, most of whom are Redskin season-ticket holders. Murphy said 200 members are needed to make construction of the club financially viable.
Murphy said that the $5,000 membership fee, which will be used to defray cost of construction, will be supplemented by an annual membership dues of perhaps $300.
"On top of that, some would have to purchase tickets in order to get into the stadium. But that would have to be coordinated with the respective clubs," he said.
"Obviously, the Redskins will be interested in selling additional tickets to events," he added.
Charles McPhee, one of two FSM employees answering customer calls, said that "one of the big selling points is that people on the waiting list can get in." McPhee says he tells prospective members that the $5,000 will not buy them a season ticket but "will get them a ticket to get into the staduim. We assume they will see the game from the club."
But, Williams says that may create "logistical problems."
The plan, largely aimed at corporations and lobbyists who would like to wine and dine clients at Redskin games, calls for members to be allowed to bring three guests each.
Stadium Manager Ken Hopkins said he could not "see where 600 could be seated" with a full view of the playing field. He said the club, which will include a stand-up bar as well as private meeting rooms, "could get 600 standing. If you put people in and jam them shoulder to shoulder you can get 600 in easily. Would it be comfortable? I sure don't think sardines get too comfortable in a can."
But, Hopkins added, he thought it was "a great plan that had worked at other stadiums."
Asked if he thought $5,000 was a lot to pay with no guarantee of seeing a game, Hopkins said, "That depends if you're talking to Mr. Rockefeller or if you're talking to Ken Hopkins."
McPhee said that the overload problems would be solved with a lottery or rotation system. "You would not be able to see every home game," he said.
The plans call for the club to be available to members for two hours before and after games and during the week when no sports events are scheduled. b
Williams said, "I think to charge $5,000 for a club that is usable only on a date when there is activity is very, very expensive. I don't think it will have a lot of appeal."