The Washington Post

Kevin Payne is ‘very encouraged’ about D.C. United stadium project in Washington

D.C. United President Kevin Payne and Coach Ben Olsen were guests on WAMU Radio’s “Kojo Nnamdi Show” on Thursday, discussing a wide variety of topics. Judging by listeners’ questions, the possibility of a new stadium remains a hot topic.

You can listen to the entire 52-minute program here, but for Payne’s specific thoughts on the stadium hunt, I offer these excerpts:

On the need to find a new home.....

“It’s absolutely vital. It has to happen. We are not a sustainable business at RFK [Stadium], but it will happen. I am absolutely convinced of that, that we will end up with a home that is appropriate for our team and our fans. I think we will enter a new renaissance at that time. Right now it’s difficult for us to compete against some of the other teams in the league because we just don’t have the revenue opportunities at RFK. I think in the new building we will.”

On the search process.....

“We are talking to Baltimore and we are talking to D.C. People need to remember that [for several years], we were all struggling with a global financial collapse, the fallout and hangout which continues today. So it wasn’t the easiest time to be having conversations about a public-private partnership with the District. We are having very good conversations with the District now and I feel very encouraged. At the same time, we have been treated very respectfully by Baltimore and the Maryland Stadium Authority, and we’re having serious conversations with them as well. Our position is that we need to have a new stadium. For our business, that is something that has to happen.”

On the thought of tearing down RFK and rebuilding on that site.....

“It would be very complicated to tear down RFK. First of all, it’s very costly for any stadium structure to be torn down. It’s more complicated in the case of RFK because of its name. There are many people in Washington, D.C., who see it as a monument as much as they see it as a sports facility, so it’s a very complicated issue, and it’s not one that we’ve really explored very seriously. I don’t think it’s something in our future.”

On the Buzzard Point site.....

“The Buzzard Point site is one that we’ve discussed with the city. It makes a great deal of sense from an urban planning standpoint. A lot of money has been invested in infrastructure for the baseball stadium; there’s tremendous growth happening. The Buzzard Point site would cross South Capitol Street and begin to link the whole waterfront.”

On the timetable for a new stadium.....

“Our hope is that before this [calendar] year is out we will have some clarity on a stadium plan. We certainly think it’s feasible that we could get underway with a stadium construction project next year. Now, that’s going to require things to fall into place, whether in D.C. or in Maryland. The timetable’s not really different in either location; the process is different. If you ask me as a fan, I hope we can be in a stadium in 2015. I am not making any promises, but that is certainly something we would love to shoot for.”

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.

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