During his annual state-of-the-league address Thursday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber discussed D.C. United’s stadium situation.
[To read my formal story, please click here. The full transcript is below.]
“I remain very concerned and I am continually frustrated. This team has been an important asset for the community, has delivered on everything a pro sports team should be focused on. They’ve been successful, for the most part, on the field. They’ve been engaged in the community, they’ve been operating with minimal resources and yet have had a major league presence in the community. And by the way, they’ve lifted a couple trophies, more so than perhaps some other teams over the last 10 or 15 years.”
“We have to aggressively figure a solution out, and that solution needs to be figured out soon. I am concerned about where this team will be in 2012. They’ve been operating without a new lease. They’ve been in discussions on a lease to try to improve their terms. I’m shocked to say they could be paying more for their lease in RFK than any other team we have in the league. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s a stadium that is substandard to what soccer fans are able to experience in many other markets.”
“We need a solution, and I’ve been pushing Kevin [Payne] and Will Chang to try to find that solution. If that means, if they can’t get a new and improved lease in D.C., and they’ve got to move to another facility in the region, I will be supportive of that, and in fact, will help them do that. If it means they can’t find a solution in Baltimore, then we’ll have to go through a process as we did with San Jose [which relocated to Houston in 2006] to think about potentially moving the team.”
“Short of having somebody say, ‘You privately finance a stadium on your own with no support, no tax advantages, no land, no public participation at all,’ we have not been either offered an opportunity to participate with the public on a mechanism that would make financial sense and also work for the community and for what we are trying to achieve from a business perspective, there are very few 100 percent privately financed facilities. That’s not something that would make sense for us in D.C., and that’s not at all because the owner isn’t capable of doing it. Our challenge is, we have started and stopped a half a dozen times over the last number of years, and at this point, it’s very clear to me there is a traffic jam taking place in your city that probably rivals some of the other traffic jams that take place in your city. It’s been frustrating to get a green light on any road whatsoever that will lead us down a path to have a stadium.”
“I don’t know where Kevin Payne is in his most recent conversations with the mayor. All I know is that Part One of this project is not asking the mayor to give us money to build a stadium in D.C.; the first part is to try to renew a lease at RFK that makes economic sense for a soccer team that is delivering great value and employing lots and lots of people and has been a good member of the community.”
Garber ended his comments by referencing the raccoon that has been spotted running around the stadium.