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A Few Minutes With Will Chang

We know all about your team, Will. But what's the latest on a new stadium for D.C. United? The Insider is heard that Montgomery County has proposed two sites, D.C. is still interested to some extent and at least two Virginia jurisdictions have stepped forward.

"We're getting a lot of interest from various districts around D.C. Right now, we're talking to a number of jurisdictions. [Team president] Kevin Payne is doing a lot of the talking and I am working with Kevin."

If you can't reach a deal for the type of stadium you've been proposing -- 24,000 seats and all the other bells and whistles -- would you scale back the project to, say, 20,000 in order to get a deal done?

"The most expensive thing for us right now is not having a stadium. So if it means we have to compromise here or there, we will compromise -- compromises in the location, compromises in the size, compromises in the ultimate costs of the stadium. We had originally contemplated building something that was in line with what New York is doing [in Harrison, N.J.], but if there aren't enough funds -- public and private financing -- for us to be able to do that.....

.....I accept reality. If it means we have to tone down our expectation, we will do that."

Would you consider a location that is not near a Metro station, which is important to so many United supporters?

"One of the most important elements of the project is to have public transportation -- good public transportation -- because our fan base really relies on it. We could be talking to as many as 10 or 20 potential areas if Metro wasn't part of our criteria. But we are really limiting our search to places that have public transportation."

Would you consider the situation urgent at this point?

"There is a sense of urgency in that playing at RFK Stadium right now is extremely painful in that it is not a very efficient layout. We think, with a soccer-specific stadium, we can substantially enhance the quality of the experience for our fans. So is there a hard, set deadline? I don't have one, but the league wants to see us move into a new, soccer-specific venue probably because those stadiums are what's going to help make the league successful. My friends here in San Jose really need to have their own stadium. This stadium here right now does not provide the kind of experience that some of the other stadiums around the league provide. It's important for every team to have a soccer-specific stadium."

"I love RFK, but RFK wasn't built as a soccer-specific stadium, and if we are going to build a stadium, we want to create an ambiance. The angle of the seats at RFK are just too shallow. We need to bring the seats steeper and bring in a roof so we can contain the noise. And we need to bring the seats closer in. At RFK, there's too much space between the team benches and the fans. It's like playing in stadiums around the world that have a track around them. It's too far. We want to build something that you see in Europe that is very intimate, keeps the noise, and enhances the experience for the fans."

The new Stanford Stadium here in the Bay Area was built within a year. Could you put up something that quickly once you finalize negotiations and break ground?

"Can we do it in 18 months with one crew? Can we do it in six months running three crews like Stanford did? It's a lot of overtime, but there is a value in saving time. Ideally, I would like to do it all in a year, but it depends where you're doing it and what kind of agreement you have with the neighbors and the jurisdiction. It will take anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Maybe we can run two crews [essentially 16 hours of project work per day]. If you break ground in the middle of the season, there's not point rushing it because you probably don't want to open a stadium a year later in the middle of the season. If I were to start in December, I might want to run a little overtime to get it done in 14 months for the following season. It's important to time it so you bring in a stadium at the start of a season. Logistically, it's difficult to move into a new venue in the middle of the season."

You live in the Bay Area, and despite being United's owner, you have season tickets for the Earthquakes?

"I have 10 season tickets. I got them last year. I don't go to the games in Oakland because it's a logistical nightmare for me, but I come here. I like coming here. They're my home team."

So, um, who's your favorite MLS team?

"It's D.C. United. Come on! But when I come here, I am cheering for the 'Quakes all the time, particularly when they are playing against an Eastern Conference team. Well, besides D.C., of course."

By Steve Goff  |  July 25, 2009; 1:18 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: D.C. United News & Notes
Next: Saturday Kickaround

Comments

First!

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Second!

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Third! Go Lance on Mont Ventoux!!

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Gotta love Chang! I'll give him the Quakes fan fetish as it's the home team, so long as he knows who's paying his bills (or where his money is disappearing). . . and so long as he wears black.

I like the small stadium idea, no frills, bells or whistles (and no laser light show PAYNE!), but only if a new stadium has expansion possibilities. We'll eclipse 25K per season in no time!!!

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Fifth!

Posted by: Konoha7 | July 25, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Getting that out of the way, I'm still not a fan of having smaller stadiums. Sure, they get filled and all, but how can we expect to get more people if we only have seats for 20k?

It just doesn't work. I mean it's a couple million dollars to build this stadium, so would it be worth it to make a bigger one ten years into the future when soccer is the biggest thing in America and the French stop being snobby towards us (haha funny)?

I don't see how this is a good idea, though I know DC needs a new stadium. I was just looking at something around 30-35k. With a bouncing section. Otherwise I don't think a stadium would be that beneficial.

71,203 at a soccer game in America. Ignoring that it was two top Euro teams, that's pretty awesome. See, how could DC do that if their stadium holds a third of that?

Continuing my ranting, I went to McDonalds and they were like "We don't serve burgers after 12 o'clock." Seriously? Man, I'm going to Burger King from now on.

And I like how I ask for Pavel Nedved and I get Danny Szetela and Ely Allen. Oh how cruel the soccer gods are.

Posted by: Konoha7 | July 25, 2009 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Podiium on a fixed gear? If it's gonna be 20k I better get a job now so I can get my season ticket scarf too...

Posted by: DadRyan | July 25, 2009 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so a small 20K-25K stadium would not be ideal, but keeping them in DC is paramount. You gotta give in somewhere and a smaller, but packed stadium would be a huge draw and ultimately it might get DC United a stadium in the area.

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 1:53 AM | Report abuse

How would a 20-25K stadium allow for D.C. United to grow their fan base? I think the ideal stadium would be 30K to allow our fan base to grow over the years.


Posted by: redskinsux | July 25, 2009 2:04 AM | Report abuse

Well since the team averages 16k a game...that gives them room to add 4k to 9k to the fan base. The capitals and Wizards are capped out at around 19k to 20k..doesn't seem to be hurting their franchises. They can then charge more for tickets and get better TV deals because more people are forced to see the games at their homes or bars.

Posted by: DCU_VW | July 25, 2009 2:16 AM | Report abuse

All apologies to the strict futbol/blog constructionists, and without exact numbers . . the toughest climbs in DC, in no particular order are

1) Rock Creek to Wisconsin
2) Rock Creek to Adams Morgan
3) Rock Creek to the Omni Shoreham
4) Up Mass to the Cathedral
4) Rosslyn to Courthouse
5) Rock Creek to the Mormon Castle

All of these are 5% average (max of 10%?) but all are short (easily less than a mile). Mont Ventoux averages 7.6% and is 12 miles long with the last 8 miles about 7-10%! http://www.climbbybike.com/profile/Mont_Ventoux-B%C3%A9doin_profile.jpg

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Good interview, Steve. Will Chang seems very sensible. A smaller 20,000 seat stadium would be ideal. They can expand it later if they want to.

I am starting to think that it might be time to take another look at Poplar Point. It is the ideal location because it is so centrally located. Do you think that Kevin Payne has talked to the District lately about the availability of land at Poplar Point?

Posted by: DaveBrett | July 25, 2009 3:18 AM | Report abuse

"Good interview, Steve. Will Chang seems very sensible. A smaller 20,000 seat stadium would be ideal. They can expand it later if they want to."

Well, as long it is mentioned that the stadium is a, "20K stadium with option to expand" would that be fine.

Posted by: redskinsux | July 25, 2009 3:28 AM | Report abuse

Does anybody else get the feeling that Steve knows more than he is admitting to?

Any size stadium beats nothing. I'm sure if they have to compromise with a smaller stadium they will have an expansion plan for down the road.

Posted by: croftonpost | July 25, 2009 4:40 AM | Report abuse

McDonald's should be serving burgers. Most offer a late night menu.

Posted by: sitruc | July 25, 2009 5:19 AM | Report abuse

How would a 20-25K stadium allow for D.C. United to grow their fan base? I think the ideal stadium would be 30K to allow our fan base to grow over the years.

Does a 70,000 seat stadium in Europe stop whatever team uses it from expanding its fan base? If the "fan base" expands to exceed the stadium's capacity, that just makes it a harder ticket to get (just like limiting tickets sold to the lower bowl at RFK.) Hey, there's half a million people in DC. We need a stadium that big in case the fan base expands to include everyone.

Posted by: DCU_Rick | July 25, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

@DaveBrett: Payne is already talking to dc counsel. There was an article posted on this thread a couple days ago.

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | July 25, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

OT but people who has not thought about checking this site to get some tidbits.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bal-sp.soccer25jul25,0,4809440.story

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | July 25, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | July 25, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | July 25, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff, Steve. Thanks.

I like Chang. I feel like he's gonna make it happen.

As for you car-less Arlingtonians who rely so much on Metro, you're killing us!

"We could be talking to as many as 10 or 20 potential areas if Metro wasn't part of our criteria. But we are really limiting our search to places that have public transportation."

Posted by: joedoc1 | July 25, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

go with a 20000 seat stadium at first if you have to.

getting the stadium is the most important thing, even if it's not the ideal size. Then expand just like every English soccer team has ever done.. add on to it as you go.

Posted by: hendrix | July 25, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

And I like how I ask for Pavel Nedved and I get Danny Szetela and Ely Allen. Oh how cruel the soccer gods are.

Posted by: Konoha7 | July 25, 2009 1:44 AM |
-------------------------------------------

Would Pavel take a developmental deal? Passing a player with Szetela's potential would have been a huge waste of the allocation rights. Who knows if Nedved was serious about MLS, but it's hard to believe DC would have been at the top of his list.

Small stadium -- does Goff know something? Probably what we know -- the Washingtonbizjournal piece that says Payne is in talks with the District about a 20k facility for Poplar Point.

I agree that this is too small, but not for the reasons discussed in other comments. You can't build much excess capacity in hopes of great growth -- not if you want to sell tickets. That is the great lesson of recent sports history -- one well learned by most baseball teams that built smaller new stadiums. The idea is to push people to buy season tickets because they think that's the only way to be sure of getting tickets -- or getting good seats -- when they want them.

(Of course, a team can overdo this if it means the team tries to charge obscene prices for premium seats -- a lesson the Nats quickly learned, but the Yankees and Mets failed to learn from -- the real problem the Yankees have is they paid too much for a stadium that is smaller than the demand, so they messed up trying to compensate by charging more than sane people will pay).

The reason 20k would be too small is that it is smaller than a lot of crowds at RFK. And, not just the Beckham games, or Concacaf. I've been there for regular MLS games that drew in excess of 20k. That's why 22-24k is a far more sensible number. It allows the team to fill more seats now, without hoping for some future growth in the market. And, it will still push people to buy the season tickets -- maybe 15k in season tickets to start, and more as the brand builds.

But, if they're planning a roof, expanding later isn't a real option -- so they don't want to go way too small. I think 20k is too small, because they could sell more than that now for a number of games -- and down the road, that might be the season ticket total.

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I hope we end up with a stadium and not an open aired park like the rest of the MLS teams, I just cant stand them.

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | July 25, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

@DCUnited -- that Cowherd piece smacks of soccer evangelism and proselytizing....

Cowherd -- was there ever a more apt name?

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I like how there was at least once post an hour starting at 1:00 am. Soccer Insider never sleeps!

I know the Wiz / Caps are capped at around 19,000, but they play 41 home games a year. DC United plays 15 MLS home games plus tournaments. I think around 27,000 +/- 2,000 is the ideal size.

I've always liked Will Chang - he seems like a great guy. I also love his commitment to public transportation.

Posted by: diego_r | July 25, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

@DCUnited -- that Cowherd piece smacks of soccer evangelism and proselytizing....
Posted by: fischy
=================

What's the point? Only 144,000 of us are going to soccer heaven.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 25, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Nice link delantero, but you forgot one. K(Water)St. straight up Wisconsin all the way to the Cathedral. Try that one on for size...
;-) Urban yes, but...

Posted by: DadRyan | July 25, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I also wouldn't take this 20,000 number too seriously, I'm sure this number is adjustable by 4-5K more without too much trouble. The important part is that with McFarlane out of the picture we've made some progress.

Posted by: DadRyan | July 25, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Lance Armstrong with the quote of the tour! Wow.
Old fart, hilarious!

Posted by: DadRyan | July 25, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

There are a lot of great, small climbs in and around Bethesda. Up River Road into Potomac is a really nice one. I've got a secret little climb, which is a great finish... very short -- we're talking yards -- but involves a very steep turn at Tuckerman and the Pike.

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Coming out of Rock Creek up Strathmore/Knowles -- that's a challenging hill, but traffic is a problem there. I tend to go down, but not up.

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I hope we end up with a stadium and not an open aired park like the rest of the MLS teams, I just cant stand them.

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | July 25, 2009 10:05 AM |
---------------------------------------------

There are days when an open-air park is just perfect, as long as the glare isn't overpowering. But, with the rains we get here in the summer, I think a roof is essential -- not just for the atmosphere. You sell more tickets, if people aren't going to get wet. Of course, if it's like the Allianz...It poured there for much of the Serbia-Ivory Coast game, and I had a second-row ticket. Everyone in the fourth row and back stayed dry. The first couple of rows had the rain and I think some run-off. I ran off to buy a poncho...comes in handy for DC United.

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Team Radio Shack? Somehow it's hard to get excited about cheap, poorly made electronics.

Best ride in DC is out MacArthur, up to Great Falls, back down trough the Congressional Country Club to Mac again. Good hills, good roads and less than the normal horrible DC traffic.

Dadryan, I did K St to Wisc to Cath on a fixie 42-16. Ouch, that burns.

All else . . you will be happy the TDF is over!

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Riding up Arizona Avenue from McArthur Blvd to the AU area seems way steeper than those rides on your list, Delantero.

And, in Arlington, there are many, many rides steeper than Rosslyn to Court House.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | July 25, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I realize that, but threw those out there for comparison. I haven't done that AU hill in quite awhile b/c of traffic and the narrow width of that road. You are right though, it hurts. As does the back way to St Johns High School off Beach Rd. I still think the Mormon Castle hill is the worst.

Posted by: delantero | July 25, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, this is a soccer blog.

I hope DC United can get some prominent coverage (as in front of the sports page) more often in the dead tree version of the Post. The pre-season Chelsea-AC Milan game in Baltimore got big coverage on consecutive days. DC United's coverage tends to get knocked back to the interior pages by big stories like some guy's whiffle ball league.

The Firpo series coming up will be pretty important to anyone who believes that club teams should aspire to do well in their official international tournaments. It would be nice if folks outside of a few internet soccer nuts knew what it meant.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | July 25, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

We need to contain the noise?

Didn't know Chang was a fan of rock concerts. The Barra Brava have the potential to make your eardrums bleed the black and red.

Chang, oh, silence on the Quake's fetish! It's not healthy, tis not seemly.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | July 25, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Seats everywhere. No benches!!!

Posted by: torrey151 | July 25, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

When we start having 16k season ticket holders then we can start talking about having a stadium that seats 27k. We need to first get back to basics. We need to sell out all of our reg season games in a 20k stadium, have a season ticket base of 16k and sell out open cup, and concacaf games. Lets face it, we do not want a 27k stadium for a crowd of 4k attending open cup games. if we increase our fan base and season ticket holders. Fans who can not get tickets for regular season games will be forced to come to open cup games if they want to see UNITED. by the way who many games have we had this year that have been above 20k???? Expanding is not easy but is no inpossible.

Posted by: Norteno4life | July 25, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@delantero: 42-16? that's nothing... ;-)

Posted by: DadRyan | July 25, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious too about the 20k number that's been popping up. I just hope that it doesn't end up being a BMO type stadium - glorified HS football stadium. Though I trust Chang when he says "European atmosphere" - and that means roofing. I guess they'll be thinking more Pride Park than Red Bull Arena. Also, beggers can't be choosers.

And from the sound of Chang's statements, there's some urgency. That's why I really don't think Poplar Point is realistic.The city is back to square one with PP planning - and none of the earliest ideas involve a stadium. Maybe that's just a starting point for new talks with DC (sorry, no pun intended). I still think that a partnership with the city in another part of town would make sense - maybe they want to wedge a smaller ground into a neighborhood - who knows. We need a big break in negotiations - the smaller things will work themselves out from there.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 25, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

But, if they're planning a roof, expanding later isn't a real option -- so they don't want to go way too small. I think 20k is too small, because they could sell more than that now for a number of games -- and down the road, that might be the season ticket total.

Posted by: fischy | July 25, 2009 9:51 AM
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Not true. FC Twente, one of the Dutch teams I follow, added on 12,000 seats to their stadium (which was covered). I think it was done in a relatively short time. Even though it's a regional team (400K population base), it's sold out from season tickets.

Posted by: agoldhammer | July 25, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Yep - plenty of European teams expand with full roofing. Charlton and Manchester United - multiple times - to use two examples. I just don't see the point when you can just put in the proper amount when you build. 20k is too small for our fanbase - disregard the lower attendance this season. There must be some specific, logistical reason for that number - whether it's financial or land concerns. We'll see.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 25, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Hull City's KC Stadium. Seats 25,000 with the capability in the future of expanding to 30k:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KC_Stadium

Posted by: Juan-John | July 25, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I like the fact that Will has Quakes tickets. It's one more sign, for those unconvinced, that he's really dedicated to this sport and this league, and should make everyone a lot more comfortable with him as our owner.

Posted by: HowdyDCU | July 25, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

sorry if this has already been mentioned, but what are the two potential sites in montgomery county?

Posted by: birdynumnum | July 25, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Late to the party cause of work, but I have an idea for the roof/expansion issue.

What about a temporary fabric roof? It's what Vancouver plans on doing in BC place until their stadium gets built. What if you build the support for a roof (attractively, as part of the stadium design), set back far enough from the stadium as it will be for the seats to be added to the back of the second level (I'm assuming this will be a two deck stadium, even at 20k), and use cables to hang the canvas or whatever it is made of. Then, when you are ready to expand, these supports become the outside of the staium, with seats backing up to them, and more permanent roof structure is put in.

Hopefully that makes as much sense reading as the idea made in my head. It seems a feasible engineering feat, and a win/win for the idea of roof/expansion.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | July 25, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

49th!!!

Posted by: FAkeemail9875 | July 26, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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