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A few months ago, I pissed off a bunch of D.C. United fans when I suggested there weren’t that many of them. The reaction was swift—-nine comments, including:
Yet another misinformed post… DC United has been the rare bright spot for DC’s pro-sports teams over the last decade and has one of the strongest fan bases in the ML
True, I’d picked a real kick-’em-while-they’re-down moment. In recent months, plans to build D.C. United’s new stadium in Washington and later P.G. County had fallen through. And sports isn’t exactly my area of expertise. But last night, I did attend a D.C. United game at RFK stadium, and let me tell you:
(1) Those attendance numbers don’t exactly scream “Busting at the seams! Build us a new stadium!” but
(2) RFK isn’t helping, as I’m sure any D.C. United fan could tell you. That stadium isn’t worthy of a bunch of four-year-olds attacking the ball for the first time.
In short, a pickle.
First of all, the capacity for RFK Stadium dwarfs the size of any major league soccer team’s attendance numbers. So, it’s never going to be full. Currently, RFK sits 45,600. This season, the Seattle Sounders claim the largest attendance numbers in major league soccer—and they’re averaging roughly 15,000 below that number, with 30,739 fans. (The number two slot belongs to Toronto with 20,324.)
Just eyeing RFK last night, I would have to say it was, mmmmm, maybe one twentieth full? One nineteenth? And yet, you can’t move down to a lower level.
D.C. United, this season, is averaging considerably below its Pacific Northwestern soccer brethren. According to recent stats on ESPN, United is bringing in some 14,778 on average each game. The league’s unofficial average attendance is above that: 15,527.
And then, ugh, RFK. It skulks on the edge of the Anacostia, just a barely illuminated blob on the horizon, almost begging to be ignored: “Don’t look at me! Pay no attention!” From the outside, the stadium is barely lit. There’s a rim of light coming through toward the top, and that’s basically it. So, you’re thinking, ‘Okay, they’re not going to be super fussy here.’ Oh. But. They. Are. I brought a little sandwich and a soda to the game—no leniency! “Toss it!” said the security guard as I tried to enter the stadium. Dinner became a bottle of water and a big, dry, pretzel: $7. Tap water not optional.
As for kicking back and relaxing in the nearly empty stadium, well there are limits. I watched a security guard—-actually a whole, bored security patrol—-tell some other people in our little group to stop balancing their feet on the metal bar in front of them. It might have been the guard’s most eventful three seconds of the evening. But, it was probably the deal-breaker for me.
Never again RFK stadium! Never again.
Image by Alan Cordova, Flickr Creative Commons