Location in Southwest D.C. remains favorite of team, city
Jason Levien promised to use a machete to cut through the jungle of District politics when he took over as D.C. United's owner and general partner back in July.
He has found since then that the tools for securing a new stadium don't need to be quite so lethal. While the journey to getting one is far from over, Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C. is firmly in the crosshairs of the team and the city, and Levien believes he has momentum in his favor.
"What I've sensed -- and I understand it better now than when we first took over -- is that the political leaders are behind us now," Levien said. "They understand that there's a serious, strong constituency for D.C. United soccer in Washington, and they want to see it stay here."
On Monday, Levien and United's two other investor partners, Erick Thohir and Will Chang, and team president Kevin Payne used the rare occasion of being together in Washington to serve meals at So Others Might Eat, one day after watching their team win its third game in a row and move closer to its first postseason berth since 2007.
"I've been a part of other pro sports teams that care about service as well, but the focus here on serving the community is really profound," Levien said.
D.C. United's playoff push adds to the excitement of Levien's main task off the field, though he wouldn't put a timeline on the process. He said he has encountered only support from leaders in Mayor Vincent Gray's office and in the D.C. Council. All of them have focused on Buzzard Point -- not another site in Washington or relocation to another city -- as the best possible solution for a new stadium.
"Every week, we feel like we're making progress on figuring out the structure of the opportunity," Levien said.
City leaders are spearheading the current step of assembling the land, which can't happen fast enough. Once that is complete, the team and the city will start to figure out how to finance the project. Levien said there are lessons to be learned from the public-private partnership recently struck for an NBA/NHL arena in Seattle, where there isn't even a team.
"The hunger and passion that Seattle fans have for pro sports I think we have in Washington as well," Levien said. "When you lose a team, you realize what you've lost. We don't want to get anywhere near that here. We want this team in Washington."