July 9, 2020

OPINION: United fans hope stadium will be club’s high-water mark

I listened intently Thursday morning as Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray took to the podium to announce what I hoped were details of D.C. United’s new stadium to be built at Buzzard Point in SW Washington.

These are words, you see, that I have waited 17 years to hear. I attended my first game as a fan on Sept. 6, 1996, a 2-1 loss to the then-New York/New Jersey MetroStars. I remember I drove through standing water in the streets of D.C. to get to RFK Stadium that night, the remnants of Hurricane Fran having caused water-logged travel throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic.

United are but a soccer club, but they are my club. And for all those folks I’ve met the last 17 years who came into my life only because of the existence of this club – including my bride-to-be – driving through some big puddles to get to a match is nothing, because this is our club. Heavy rain is nothing. Wind is nothing. Storms and blackouts and snow are nothing. Road trips to the Meadowlands and Columbus for league and playoff matches (even ones that get postponed), or smaller burgs such as Hershey and Richmond and Germantown for Open Cup matches are nothing. As goalkeeper Bill Hamid tells it, “They can’t hold us back.”

Because this is our club.

United is our club, our cause, and our soul. For much of the club’s existence, the battle to find a more permanent (soccer-specific is the more popular term) home for our club has hung over us like a doomsday cloud.

We were sure for a while that the new home would come in Washington, where it should be, at Poplar Point.

It never happened.

We were sure for a little while the new home would come in Prince George’s County, Maryland, whether we liked it or not. Many fans, myself included, marched to the state legislature in support of a bill that would pave the way for the stadium to happen.

It never happened.

Thursday, we were all ready to hear from Mayor Gray how this deal was going to happen, why this time was different.

Instead, there were introductions and a bit of quotable material and gratitude to city and team officials alike for their help in getting this done.

Except, of course, it’s not done.

Far from it. And we knew that. But it’s far from done in particular since the land upon which said stadium is supposed to be built belongs to at least three different entities (none of whom are D.C. United). There are political machinations that must be played out, opponents who must be swayed, residents who probably don’t want this in their backyard, and those coming out of the woodwork who yell from the rooftops with megaphones every time any city works with any team on any stadium, glossing them a disaster. And maybe those folks aren’t wrong. But they sure are predictable.

In short, there are still just too many questions. Ones that I’m not sure the city is prepared to answer yet. What will it take for the Buzzard Point property owners to give up their land? What needs to be done to the site to get it ready for construction? How quickly can the city really pull all this off? What happens in 2014 if a new Mayor is elected?

Many fans, along with city (which notably did include five City Council members in attendance) and team officials, were excited yesterday. Hope is a wonderful thing to have. “DC is here to stay!”, it was proclaimed. A term sheet was signed, an agreement reached … yes, we made it!

But as Red reminded us in Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

I want to see this happen just as bad as everyone else who supports it. There is no tomorrow, after all. I believe either this project gets done or United moves somewhere else (and not close somewhere else like Baltimore, I mean somewhere ELSE). This is the last swing for United and the city, only time will tell if there is joy in Mudville.

I write about the potential stadium (that’s its name for right now, “Potential Stadium”) because it’s an important issue as part of the United coverage provided here at District Sports Page. Personally, since the debacle in PG County, I’ve told people countless times that I won’t believe it’s done until I’m standing in it at the home opener in whatever season it’s finished.

Come hell or high water, I want to see United stay in D.C., because I love the sport, love the club, and would hate to see the relationships I’ve built with hundreds of good people due solely to United’s existence vanish in some way because what brought us all together is now gone.

From that first match, we’ve been through the high water. I hope the city and the club know what they are doing and what they are getting into, lest we be introduced to hell.

Ed Morgans is the United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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