Even as you attempt to win, please accept a list of our demands
Perhaps the news coverage of the Democratic Nominating Process has gotten to me, but even as it seems D.C. United has inching closer to making a deal with either DC or PG County for a stadium, now it seems time for me to present a list of what I would want to see in a new stadium. Yes, I realize that I have little clout in this matter, but if Barack Obama in Virginia can shamelessly steal from Star City Mayor Oliver Queen* in calling out the "corporate Fat Cats," then I can shamelessly steal from Hillary Clinton by enumerating my conditions when the other parties have most of the power.
The fact is, until now, we've pretty much been in complete lockstep with the entire stadium argument from DCU and Victor MacFarlane. We've tried to approach it with our best efforts at intellectual and public policy honesty, but ultimately we do believe that D.C. United needs a stadium, just as a matter of financial survival.
However, as we begin to move to a phase where the idea of a stadium plan moves to "there will be a stadium" (though yet to be geographically determined) let's start talking about what kind of stadium we want to see. I should, of course, note that some have started this conversation already, so I don't pretend to be a pioneer. Still, the point he makes is well made - United's home field atmosphere comes primarily from the loud side, and protecting a boisterous loud side is important. This means privileging the Supporter's groups even in a new stadium. Let's face it, supporter related ticket activity will still be a large percentage of ticket sales, so this is in United's interest as well.
These concerns are distinct from Geography, and distinct from other architectural concerns (I don't want a stage-end, but it's not a deal breaker. I like bouncy stands, but it's still not a deal breaker if we don't have them.) Atmosphere and game-day experience are what I am all about. I want that protected in a new stadium.
So how can we do that?:
- Seating: I'm sure that United knows this, but having the main supporter's groups on the sideline in the middle of the field is a huge impact. Not just to TV cameras (though that helps) but also to the quiet side. When I sit on the quiet side, I still appreciate looking across the field and seeing the rowdies tear the place up. So don't stick them in the corner, away from lost lines of sight. Which leads to...
- Unity: Here's where I may get into trouble. While I'm sure that both La Barra Brava and the Eagles both want good sideline seating, it's not clear to me that they want to sit next to each other. In fact, I know that some people in both groups would prefer a little more distance. This should be resisted, even if the Supporter's Groups themselves ask for it (and I hope they don't). On a macro level, even if the tifo isn't some beautifully orchestrated symphony, having the interaction between the two groups is more important to the United experience, and to the experience of the United fans. I know, and understand, the feelings on the separatists for both sides, but to my mind having two supporter's groups, different, but none-the-less in close proximity and occasionally in unison, is a wonderful thing.
- Prices: I'm hoping that the biggest impact to United's bottom line with a new stadium is a reduction in day-to-day overhead costs. And while several of the loud United supporters are wealthy individuals, the fact that you can get a good ticket for $20 or less means that you get a good economic spectrum of support. That has to be protected, and should be in line with United's mission of "serving the community." While I can apprecaite the need to raise prices for some areas of the stadium to increase profit (or defray construction costs) I would hate if we say an across-the-board increase of 20% for most tickets. That's not going to fly with me. With a smaller stadium capacity and smaller costs for overhead, and the revenue that United will obtain from concessions, parking, and advertising, and with the new sponsor deals, I hope United will keep any price increase for most of the existing 100-level seating areas to no more than 5% in the first three years of the stadium.
- Tailgating: You want atmosphere, you have to let us tailgate. Just that simple. There important... preparation... that needs to be done pregame.