By JUSTIN FERGUSON
After years and years of waiting for a new home in ancient, oversized RFK Stadium, there seems to be good news ahead during a troublesome season for D.C. United.
On Thursday, the city and D.C. United took what head coach and former player Ben Olsen called “a huge first step” in giving the club a soccer-specific stadium in the nation’s capital.
The club and Mayor Vincent C. Gray officially announced plans to build a new stadium for D.C. United in the Buzzard Point area located in the Southwest part of the city. The stadium is scheduled to be completed for the 2016 season.
“We are proud to say that D.C. United has achieved a major milestone towards establishing a permanent, state-of-the-art home in Washington, D.C.,” said Jason Levein, one of the three owners who bought the club 12 months ago. “This is a significant step forward, and we are going to continue to work diligently and collaboratively with the Mayor’s office and the D.C. Council to expedite this process and make this stadium a reality.”
The stadium was described by Gray as a linchpin in the city’s revitalization efforts of the riverfront area. It will be located adjacent to the Fort McNair Army base and a few blocks west of Nationals Park, the home of the city’s Major League Baseball franchise.
“The new soccer stadium is the final piece in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative puzzle that, when complete will create the most vibrant and sustainable sports-and-retail district in America,” Gray said.
The plans for a new stadium hinge on a complicated series of land swaps from the city that would include the relocation of the Frank D. Reeves Center, a major city government building that houses thousands of employees. The swaps will be the bulk of the taxpayers’ estimated $150 million contribution—one-fourth of the city’s bill for Nationals Park.
D.C. United will cover the construction costs for the stadium, which are also estimated at $150 million.
“I see (the stadium plans) as a strong economic engine for this city, and I would definitely have to be for that,” D.C. City Councilwoman Anita Bonds said. “The stadium is a unique way for the city to get some of the things we need to continue growth and development. I love the idea of this land swap.”
These plans come as exciting news for local fans of DCU. In the past, the club has looked at relocating to Baltimore and another location in the state of Maryland, but those plans fell through.
But with all the optimism surrounding Thursday’s announcement, there comes some reluctance. One man that knows all about DCU’s previous stadium drama is Olsen, who has been with the club as a player and a coach since 1998.
“I’m trying to keep it in perspective for a moment because we’ve gone down this road several times,” Olsen said. “But it’s a huge first step—a huge first step with the District of Columbia. For me, as a resident of D.C. who has fallen in love with this city and this team, it’s a big deal.
“There’s nowhere else this team needs to be. I love this area and this city. I believe in what they’re doing here. I believe in this revitalization process, and I can’t wait to see it happen here one day.”
What do you think about this news? Excited to see D.C. United staying in the nation’s capital? Holding back your expectations along with Olsen?
Share your thoughts below.