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Posted at 3:28 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

RFK Stadium's cockroaches, raccoons and power outages, oh my!

By Steve Goff

We're just four days into 2011, and already we can close the nomination process for MLS quote of the year. Ben Olsen, take a bow.

"Yesterday, I come to work, first day, a new year, optimism, I walk in, and who greets me in the hallway?" D.C. United's newly appointed head coach said Tuesday at RFK Stadium. "A cockroach, the biggest one I've ever seen. He wasn't moving for me. He looked me dead in the eyes and was like, 'Look, I am not moving.' So I said, 'Good morning, Happy New Year,' and walked by. He tipped his hat to me. He was hung over from New Year's. He had the little horn in his mouth and the party hat."

Happy New Year to the cockroach, happy 50th birthday to RFK. We always knew creepy critters were scurrying in the shadows of the old building. Apparently they're getting bigger.

"I saw it. It was gigantic," United President Kevin Payne said. "I think someone stepped on it -- several times."

For much more.....

Murder at RFK! Though no arrests have been made, demonic DCU alums Hristo Stoitchkov and Dema Kovalenko are prime suspects.

Wildlife is not uncommon inside the charming wreck along the banks of the mighty Anacostia, most notably dead birds and feral cats. Last year, a raccoon decided to camp above the press box and director's box on the mezzanine level. It also took a liking to the team store. Urine seeping through the ceiling panels threatened to ruin merchandise, Payne said.

"They humanly trapped him in cages and took him somewhere," he added. "And then others seemed to show up. At least we don't have stink bugs."

Perhaps a furry friend was responsible for the 10-minute power failure that shrouded the windowless stadium offices in darkness Tuesday morning, drawing exasperated team employees into the sun-lit lobby. Down in the basement, it looked and felt like an abandoned subway tunnel. (Stadium officials said the blackout was caused by a PEPCO issue in the neighborhood.)

"I do love it here, I really do," Olsen said, trying not to burst into laughter -- or perhaps tears. "It's always something. It's great. It's our RFK."

By Steve Goff  | January 4, 2011; 3:28 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  | Tags:  D.C. United, RFK Stadium  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: D.C. United news & notes
Next: D.C. United's stadium outlook and investor search, Pat Onstad's arrival and Jaime Moreno's status


Wonder how much the Orkin contract would be?

Any chance that proclaiming what we all suspected is just another Front Office cry for Stadium help???

If a tree falls in the forest...

Posted by: yankiboy | January 4, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Just how big was that cockroach? Could he put the ball in the net? (He certainly would qualify as a home-grown player.)

Posted by: b18bolo | January 4, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

With the third pick in the college draft, DC United selects...

Billy the Exterminator

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 4, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Urine at RFK? No way!

Posted by: Reignking | January 4, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Akron's Nagbe is the attacker choice....

Its good that the first 'New Year' exchange w/reporters 7 the new Manager on the home grounds/RFK is about giant cockroaches and decaying facilities. That must make the situation even more attractive to potential prospects; especially those from overseas. DCU front office jokes about this but it sends a horrible message to fans, players, recruits, agents - its really unfortunate for the franchise.
Maryland Stadium Authority
recently released feasibility study

Posted by: Zipfutbol | January 4, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Rodney Wallace. You're out.

Racoon. Urine

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 4, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

PEPCO was doing a test run for the mid-season, in-game power outages. But don't worry, BG&E won't leave us in the dark

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 4, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

@ I-270Exit1, +5 (excellent start to the season)

Posted by: soccerman | January 4, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I worked in the basement of the Pentagon for four years, that puny cockroach at RFK was surely no match for those cigar-chewing steroid-taking cockroaches :-)

Of course, anything short of a rabid badger should be scared to confront Ben Olsen ;-)

Posted by: dcufan | January 4, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Racoons and Paul McCartney?

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 4, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps DC United should audition these two left wings from Russia . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | January 4, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The cockroaches in downtown Bethesda are so big that this winter they are killing the rats for their pelts.

Posted by: soccerman | January 4, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

isn't this bordering on the ridiculous already? they can't afford an exterminator? this sounds like a job for hoarders...why not have a volunteer weekend at RFK for DCU supporters. we show up, clean it up and put some positives into it, or is it beyond fixing? Am I the only one who thinks we should just refurb RFK and make it DCU's permanent home?

Posted by: hamlin_todd | January 4, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

our stadium is a joke inside and outside the beltway.

Posted by: hamlin_todd | January 4, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who thinks we should just refurb RFK and make it DCU's permanent home?

Posted by: hamlin_todd | January 4, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes. Yes you are.

Posted by: icehippo | January 4, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyway, hiring an exterminator to clean out RFK would cost more than a DP.

Posted by: icehippo | January 4, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Steve great work reporting on DCU.

Every year my family cuts back on DCU participation as the franchise winds down. We had season tiks, then reduced package then 2-3 games. Last year I went to one game along with 7,000 diehard fans maybe. Food, bathrooms, soccer all bad and getting worse.

We used to bring our girls and boys soccer teams for a fun evening.

Would be nice if Kevin would address the issues facing DC and solutions before its too late and stop taking about yesteryear. Time running out-get some players now, talk to the fans about RFK or new stadium and how you are going to make it fun again to go to games and spend $.

The fans don't want to see DCU move to Baltimore or go under so please know we want DCU to act like its an emergency and show some improvement.

Posted by: katomato | January 4, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

@todd - NO. Unless the city is willing to cede ownership of the stadium to DC United then that's a non-starter. They can't make money with the current set-up.

Posted by: soccerman | January 4, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

For when you're ready to order that RFK hot dog...

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 4, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

If you don't come to any games how does that tell management that you care at all? Why shouldn't they move to Baltimore if no one can be bothered to show up at our wreck. I think they know they need to "show some improvement". I'm just not really sure they know how to go about doing that.

I never really cared much about "amenities", I just like to see the games. There is Ledo pizza now though at something like $9 for a little 8" square, so the food's not all bad.

Posted by: fedssocr | January 4, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The problem for DCU is always going to be finding the best situation for the stadium that includes favorable financing. New digs with a mortgage are new digs and probably a similar net addition to the bottom line or small improvement. To the teams out there that have woeful attendance but "free" stadiums (I'm looking at you FCD), we'd still be at a disadvantage.

To @katomato's point, the team has addressed some issues. We've grown younger, we acquired an upgrade in Dax and we've shed some heavy contracts. The roster is in full on repair mode now. We've finally let go of a lot of the past and stopped seeking the plugs. It's going to grow organically now with additions that make sense.

The only crisis is really just the stadium and the ownership. I still think Will Chang is punching above his weight class in MLS. He's looking for help, but the cavalry has not ridden into DC to support our club yet. It's clear that for the club to stick around we're going to have to look at some sort of arrangement with a new ground near RFK or accept moving to Baltimore or elsewhere.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | January 4, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's see how it works out for the raccoon at RFK. If he is successful, this will be yet another entry in the horrible management record of Kasper.

Posted by: Reignking | January 4, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I love and hate RFK.

Love: awesome tailgate parties in the parking lot w/ plenty of parking, easy to get to via road or Metro, pretty quick when exiting via roads, beer/parking/EVERYTHING costs less than at Nats Stadium/FedEx Field/Verizon Center, bouncing seats, the stadium has character

Hate: disgusting bathrooms, lack of food choices, less than ideal conditions in locker and training rooms for the team

Get us a new stadium in DC, keep prices moderate, keep the abundance of tailgate opportunities and leave the damn raccoons and Boskovic.

Posted by: Twitch703 | January 4, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse


New stadium in DC is going to cause your ticket price to increase, your concessions cost to increase, your parking to increase, etc.

Some would be offset by naming rights (VW Arena, although we should be approaching the end of that agreement), high priced boxes, increased advertising, and secondary events.

But I'm with you. Would love a new ground. Just no longer optimistic.

Anyway - I'm missing the opener against the Crew. But can anyone tell me if River Plate is playing at Monumental March 19 - March 26 and the best way to go about getting tickets?

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | January 4, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I live about 10 blocks away from RFK, and I too suffered from that same power failure. At the time I thought it was just a small, localized thang. But now it seems like a large portion of Capitol Hill got hit.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | January 4, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

The raccoon was big
The RFK “octopus”
We shall call him Paul

... unless someone already named the little pisstard.
i've only been to rfk for soccer matches and a packed house at that joint is very cool. It would be difficult to replicate that anywhere.

Posted by: haiku4dcu | January 4, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Not sure about the future of RFK but in another old stadium on the other side of the pond two Texans scored in the Premier league. Hangeland and Dempsey both had outstanding games to give Fulham a bit more space from the relegation zone.

Dempsey is now half way to matching McBride’s single season goal title for Americans in the Premier League.

Posted by: Southeasterner | January 4, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

you know you asked for it...

Posted by: DadRyan | January 4, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

We are now free to pack heat in DC (thank you Justices!), so perhaps supporters should rid RFK of the varmints ourselves? Lot 8 tailgate -- cockroach poppers to start, raccoons roasting on an open fire -- the other dark meat -- pairs well with Bud Light. Here we go!

Posted by: OWNTF | January 4, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Whenever somebody tells DadRyan, "Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it," DudeRyan responds, "OK!"

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 4, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Whenever somebody tells DadRyan, "Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it," DudeRyan responds, "OK!"

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor

Come on... maybe 15 years ago, but truth be told you should have a beer with me next season. You'd be surprised how mild mannered and normal I actually am. lol.

Posted by: DadRyan | January 4, 2011 8:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 4, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who thinks we should just refurb RFK and make it DCU's permanent home?

Posted by: hamlin_todd | January 4, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse


Without a doubt, RFK is probably the ideal location for the team. The stadium itself? That's a whole 'nuther story. It doesn't need a "refurb" -- it needs a tear-down, or serious re-build. Sure, DC could close off the top sections -- maybe put up a decorative tarp.

The real problem isn't ownership of the place, either. It's the age and inadequacy of the place. Concessions are limited because the facility can't really support anything nicer. The seats are way too far away from the field, especially on the quiet side. The stands aren't sloped enough, either, so the view of the field stinks. THe bathrooms are awful and in just about every way the stadium repels many would-be fans. I'm sure it also puts off commercial sponsors.

The biggest problem is the absence of suites and too limited and grossly inadequate club seats to sell to rich patrons and businesses.

The only way to fix the stadium so as to create a suitable and successful atmosphere for the team would be to basically rebuild the stadium. The stands would need to be brought closer to the field and the seats pitched to create better views of the field. The "bowels" would need to be fixed up, both to make the team facilities more habitable and to make for better concessions. Above all, the rebuild would have to include a bigger and more elegant mezzanine to attract the rich patrons the team could bring in with a nicer facility.

Given that the city would like to bring the Redskins back there, it seems fanciful to think they'll settle for building a soccer-specific stadium there. They might build a monster that could house both teams, but would United really want to share -- especially if that meant they couldn't get the revenue for the suites? Even if they could get to sell use of the suites, wouldn't a facility big enough to attract the Redskins be just way more than DCU could handle?

United will need its own, new stadium -- not because they need to own it. They're not going to own whatever facility they move to. They're going to be renters. What they need is a facility that will provide them more revenue from selling PSLs, club seats and suites, and more profitable concessions.

Posted by: fischy | January 4, 2011 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if we cry enough, the folks from Extreme Makeover-Home Edition will send us all on a one-week vacation while they rebuild RFK.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 5, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

A cockroach lives in the FO? Who'll get that cockroach a Twitter account?

Posted by: Rosslyn45 | January 5, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I think RFK is much, much better than other options. Central location, affordable prices for good seating, and great tailgating spots. None of this is due to any planning or brilliance by the stadium authority but we should appreciate our luck in having the accidental benefits of RFK.

Yes, concessions suck but I eat at RFK about as often as We Win Trophies. The luxury boxes aren't for my type so I could care less about that aspect. Bathrooms and their disrepair are bad but I try not to spend too much time there. The lack of working water fountains is pretty scandalous but they are probably a concession to the beer and water concessions.

Maybe some day MLS will make money thru actual ticket sales and TV revenues instead of pinning their financial hopes on expensive, less accessible venues which can be rented out for other purposes and suck more money out of the fans' wallets.

I don't own the team or spend much time worrying about wringing profits out of my investment. But I suspect that if the team ever does move to a new venue, many of us will miss the crumbling wreck of RFK.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | January 5, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The raccoon does have a name: He's Ronnie. The DUs actually made a banner for him last year, and a facebook page -

I think the concept of using the terms of the city's lease with the Park Service to leverage a stadium is an interesting one. I think it is true that if there's no stadium on the "Starplex" the land reverts to the feds. So, if the city wants to hold on to the land for the next 20+ years, until the Skins can see out their lease in Landover, they'll need something on the land. Helping out with the rights to build a 20,000-seater with favorable terms to United doesn't seem out of the question. Hopefully when Uncle Will lands another investor or three (Come on Papa Leo!) there will be enough clout to build the thing with minimal funding from the city - otherwise, start checking out the Camden Line on MARC.

Posted by: TheAMT | January 5, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who thinks we should just refurb RFK and make it DCU's permanent home?

Posted by: hamlin_todd |

Yes. Yes you are.

Posted by: icehippo

No, you aren't.

I still believe that the sensible approach for the team -- one that Fenty was willing to consider -- is for DCU to be GIVEN a long-term lease, including the right to rebuild instead of refurbish if it so chooses. Having the long-term land lease, and recognizing that no stadium lasts forever anyway, would make that sensible. But Chang was unwilling to consider that. So we move on.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | January 5, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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