One site under discussion is right next to several existing facilities, including Fed Ex Field, home of the NFL Redskins, who abandoned RFK Stadium after the 1996 season. Lovable and venerable though it is, and rock as it does when the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava are in the mood, a move is way overdue.
For much of the past decade players and coaches and team officials and fans have suffered as plans for a stadium across the Anacostia River at Poplar Point have lurched and stumbled and finally ground to a halt amid confusion and delays. If primary investors Victor MacFarlane and William Chang are indeed ready to abandon their ambitious plans for Poplar Point, it's regrettable but unavoidable.
Apparently domestic and international titles, and a loud and loyal and reasonably large fan base, aren't enough for city officials to work the levers and twist the arms necessary to keep D.C. United in D.C. These deals are about more than facts and figures and financials, they are borne of political and organizational will, which is present, apparently, in Maryland.
Getting out to Prince George County won't be convenient for much of the fan base, but like many fans in cities around the world, one option they'd like to have is public transportation, and five of the seven proposed sites are near Metro stations. For all its faults, RFK stands just a few hundred yards away from the Armory Metro station, which thousands of fans use to attend D.C. United games.
As well as addressing the problems of fans who've imbibed a few pints before and during the game before lurching into cars for the treacherous drive home, a team's identity and relationship with its fans is strengthened when they meet en masse and travel together. The atmosphere at BMO Field in Toronto is a case in point, as is the environment at Columbus Crew Stadium since three disparate fan groups banded together, mainly due to the excitement and noise generated when about 2,000 TFC fans rocked their stadium last season. Maybe Crew fans can't train or bus en masse to the stadium but they've done what they can once they get there.
Access to Red Bull Park, scheduled to open next year, by PATH trains and NJ Transit lines will take 15-20 minutes from downtown Manhattan and greatly expand the team's prospective fan base, especially for games that don't fall on the weekends.
United shared RFK with the 'Skins while winning the inaugural MLS in '96, had it all to itself for a few seasons, then shared summers with the Nationals until baseball bolted as well. District officials have been spoiled by United and soccer generating revenues out of the RFK money pit.
Poplar Point may be a pipe dream, and rich, successful men like MacFarland and Chang will always haggle for the best deal, but the other side has to come across with something more than bureaucratic and logistical obstacles.
Public transportation, per se, can't be near the top of the list when MLS teams negotiate the financial and governmental mazes that lead to a viable stadium project. If suburban facilities with limited public transportation opportunities make the most sense for that team in that market, that's the deal.
On Monday MacFarland will hold a press conference to publicly push his proposal. Whether it's a viable option or yet another ploy to spur D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty into action isn't as important as there be some action in the right direction. All those victories and trophies and incredible games should count for something.