I’m working on a story about D.C. United’s stadium situation for a bit later today. In the meantime, I did speak with D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray for a brief moment at yesterday’s 50th anniversary celebration of RFK Stadium, an event where D.C. United, while respected by all the parties present, really took a back seat to the memories of football and baseball in the past and the hope for an eventual return of the Redskins in the future. Gray said he hasn’t met with the team in a while, and said he needs to sit down with them to see where they are. Here’s some our conversation:
How you feel about D.C. United, and how much to do feel like the city should do to help the team out of its current situation, where it doesn’t earn any money from being in RFK? Do you fear that they’ll pull stakes?
“I really don’t know. We’ve had a lot of respect for the United over the years, and as [D.C. United president and CEO] Kevin Payne talked about today, they’ve been champions more than once. You know what kind of economy we’re in at this stage so it really comes down to a desire to have them here, but then how do you make deal work financially, especially with all of our needs in the city? I mean, we had to find some dollars to keep a library open. That speaks to the challenge we have. So from a desirability standpoint, we want to have D.C. United. From a feasibility perspective, we have some other challenges.”
How much would it help for D.C. United to add to its ownership group, to deepen its own pockets?
“Whatever they can bring to the table makes it a lot easier. I think people recognize being in this city, being in Washington, D.C., is highly desirable. But we’ve got the same financial challenges that other places do. The extent to which they can contribute to them being able to stay here, it’ll make it easier to try and find a solution.”
Are there short-term fixes, money that can be allocated toward RFK renovations and upgrades?
“There’s not a lot of money. We’ve got so many capital needs in the city, with our schools and our recreation centers, we’re trying to meet those needs, and those are fundamental concerns that our citizens pay the most attention to so it’s a tough situation at this stage. The extent to which they can help contribute to a solution could make it a lot easier to find a solution.”
Are you concerned that time is running out before D.C. United is forced to move?
“Sure, it isn’t so much that people like me don’t think they will leave. It’s not complacency. It’s more saying, ‘Gee, I hope you can stay, but how are we going to make this work?’ Again, the United has been an important part of the professional sports landscape here in this city, and we’d love to be able to find a way to help them stay.”