D.C. United has yet to announce a pact with new investors or unveil a new stadium plan, but reading between the lines of what club president Kevin Payne tells me, there seems to be progress on both fronts.
“We’ve told the District [government] that we would like to sit down in the near future to further discuss our future in the city, but it makes more sense for that conversation to take place after potential changes in the composition of our ownership have taken place.
“We hope these conversations with new partners will come to fruition this spring and conversations with the District can resume in late spring or early summer.”
I bolded the calendar references because this is the first time Payne has offered definitive — well, almost definitive — markers for serious negotiations. Until now, it’s been about lobbying and posturing.
Payne declined to provide further details, but what I take from it is that, after more than a year of searching, United is in late-stage talks with an individual or group to join current boss Will Chang or, perhaps, become the new major investor.
If such a deal is finalized, giving the club greater financial might, United would be in position to approach the city and say, oh, something like this:
“We’ve got the money and the ambition to finance a stadium at Buzzard Point, so help us make it happen through land and infrastructure assistance. Everyone will benefit: the team, the city, the soccer community, the untapped Southwest waterfront area. This is good for business in D.C. You’ll have a 22,000-seat facility for the pro team with longest continuous service inside city borders, a venue that is also available for other sporting events and concerts. (Sorry, no monster truck shows or football lines between March and October.) Instead of visiting stand-alone RFK Stadium for the event only, fans will eat and socialize in the city before and after. It will become a new destination for regional residents, a complex broadening the appeal of the South Capitol Street cooridor a few blocks west of the blossoming neighborhood around Nationals Park. Mr. Mayor and city council members, let’s act.”
Easier said than done, of course. United supporters have endured years of pessimism and frustration, false hope and disappointment, failed initiatives at Poplar Point and Prince George’s County, and the fear of United leaving town for Baltimore or beyond. Navigating the D.C. political waters requires the endurance, strength and mental discipline of Michael Phelps.
Maybe, just maybe, however, the club and the city are on the pathway to a permanent alliance.