First of all, I want to apologize. I haven’t been posting nearly as much and I wish I had a better reason than the reason I am about to elaborate, but I don’t.
The reason that I have gone into a bit of a funk lately is that all I can think about is DC’s disastrous stadium hunt situation and that I cannot get out of my head the belief that they are just playing out the clock towards either selling/moving the team or just folding up shop if no buyer is found.
I should also add that I think that Saturday’s march was a good thing, whether it was 500 or 1,000 actually marching. Anything that prevents United from simply going quietly into the night is a good thing at this point.
That said, it doesn’t change the primary issue which is that it’s unclear that anyone in the DC area actually wants a soccer stadium and that even if they did, it’s unclear if our ownership is willing to pony up “the going rate” for stadiums in other markets.
Are there areas where a stadium could happen in terms of transit access and space? Sure, Shady Grove and the areas around the future Loudoun County Metro stations all fit that profile. But here’s the problem. Explain to me how United can escape traditional cycle of United stadium plans which is:
- United announces or leaks plans to begin stadium planning in Location X
- Stadium opponents both, in and out of office, immediately cry waste and get favorable column written for them by Post’s Marc Fisher
- Electoral officials who may have privately supported United’s effort begin to waffle as pressure against stadium rises in local area
- Stadium deal quietly peters out as officials tell DC that they could never support this kind of deal publicly without risking their seats because while stadium proponents live all over the DC area, opponents are mobilized within relevant voting districts.
How does United break that cycle? Well, I always thought the answer was by getting the deal done in DC where it has always been easier to strong-arm development items into fruition even if the public isn’t terribly supportive. But right now, there is no evidence that Fenty cares one bit about United staying, leaving, or even existing. His electoral prospects don’t change one iota no matter what happens.
So that leaves the suburbs, with the associated problems that come with it such as potentially reduced transit links and increased risk of NIMBYism. There are faint rumblings (WTOP) that United is talking to officials in Northern Virginia – a state with an undefeated record of chasing off stadium projects whether it be the Redskins’ attempt at Potomac Yard, Arlington’s approach for the Expos/Nats, A-ball baseball at Dunn Loring, or even a new practice facility for United.
Maybe United can break the streak. I suspect they’re dealing with Loudoun County towards the Western end of the new Metro expansion. Loudoun has long been the scene of development battles, but unlike elsewhere in Northern Virginia, sometimes the developers occasionally won there. That said, that area has seen failed projects including Disney’s America, an Atlantic League baseball stadium, and a horse racing track. Can United change some history out there?
Maybe, just maybe. But, I think United needs to be more active than the perception they are sending out seems to indicate. I talked to Will Chang before the Dallas league match and he used he pretty much made it sound like the situation isn’t in their control. They ought to stop sulking and try and regain control of the situation. They ought to be talking to these counties. They ought to be communicating in some manner with fans so that more fans like me don’t get their heads down about the process and the club’s dwindling attendance doesn’t shrink even more. The nauseating silence on the part of everyone on the stadium matter is not inspiring confidence in anyone. The club needs to make clear its future both for next season and the ones beyond. While a certain degree of strategic silence makes sense, I can’t get over the thought that our ownership and management (ever prone to the occasional bout of arrogance) is doing a bit of pouting while waiting around (likely in vain) for a new suitor to “beg” them to come to their town. It should be clear by this point that isn’t going to happen.
My prediction: The team is safe through 2010 and then it is either sold and moved or simply folded, finally turning off the spigot of losses out of the ownership’s pockets.
Not to get too “Bill-O” here, but if DC management is reading this and saying to their monitors, “this guy is full of shit,” then give me a buzz and let’s talk about it, here on the site, on the record. If you want to stem the pessimism, if you want to quash the rumors, then talk to me, talk to Goff, talk to the BizJournal – talk to someone. Right now, I and many other people around the league don’t think this organization will get it done. If we’re all wrong, tell me why, and then most importantly, prove all of us wrong.