City Desk

In the Eyes of the World, RFK Stadium Isn’t Soccer-Friendly?

imagesA group from FIFA, the all-powerful and mostly shady global soccer sanctioning body, is in town this morning for a quick look-see of the local facilities as part of a national tour before deciding if the U.S. should be granted another shot at hosting a World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

Here's the itinerary for the traveling party, released last night:

TOMORROW September 8, 2010
7:25 a.m. ET — Breakfast at the White House with VIP, FIFA Technical Tour and USA Bid Committee, Washington, D.C.
8:30 a.m. ET — Site visit and private tour of the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
9:30 a.m. ET — Visit FedEx Field, Landover, MD
–Delegation departs for Miami, FL

Couple stick-outs here. First, not even a drop-by at R.F.K. Stadium, the only pro soccer venue in the city and the home of D.C. United, the flagship franchise of America's top soccer league? Could this mean team management's criticisms of RFK as unsuitable have merit*?

And, B: These World Cup people think they can start a tour of the Washington Monument at 8:30 a.m., then beat the rush hour traffic and be atFedExField by 9:30 a.m.? Didn't anybody tell them FedExField isn't anywhere near the Washington Monument or anything else worth looking at?

*More to come in this week's pulpy Cheap Seats

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  • Karl

    It probably has less to do with which field is soccer-worthy and more with which field is crowd-worthy. RFK can only hold 46,000, FedEx can hold 91,000.

  • Dave McKenna

    Karl: thanks for the thoughts, but...1)RFK hosted five games of the 1994 World Cup; B)RFK can easily be reconfigured to its old soccer capacity of about 57,000; III)RFK, even in its unexpanded format, is bigger than all but a few stadiums used in the 2010 World Cup; and, finally: FOUR)FedExField is a hellhole.

  • Eric Vilhelmsen

    If I remember correctly, DCU's complaints aren't so much that the stadium is physically unsuitable (though it most certainly is, holes opening up in the ground, threatening to drop unfortunate souls into the waiting jaws of the hungry RFK rats) as they are about the rent. Won't be a problem for us much longer, I gather. I only hope that we can swing a minor league team when United moves up the pike to Baltimore so that I won't be left a complete soccer orphan.

    But yes, FedEx is not at all a soccer stadium but will certainly be hosting our World Cup games.

  • MN

    Even as a DC United fan who has spent many many nights at RFK I can tell that you're just spoiling for a fight. Even DCU fans don't want world cup games there. I'd rather M&T than Fed Ex as far as local stadiums, but the games are gonna be in current NFL/NCAA Football stadiums and that's fine.

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    And do you guys really think that throwing RFK out there as-is is a winning sales pitch to FIFA? After FIFA's seen amazing stadiums in South Africa, Germany, and countless other countries?

    Size relative to the 2010 WC stadiums is also irrelevant - RFK, even expanded, would probably be the smallest venue by far of any of the US potential sites.

    Let's also not forget that we're likely talking about the 2022 World Cup here. At the current rate of degradation, I shudder to think at what RFK might look like 12 years from now at age 61. Pouring a bunch of money into it for renovations up to World Cup (or modern NFL) standards isn't going to be worth it, it would be more cost-effective to tear it down and rebuild from scratch.

  • Kev29

    Agree with AlexB here. The venue that bid people take FIFA to is largely irrelevant, since the stadiums will change so much before 2022 (yeah, we ain't getting 2018 - England or Russia will). But the FIFA committee were taken to the bigger and spiffier facility. FedEx might be awful, but at least it has 91,000 seats and contemporary features (like huge luxury facilities for FIFA corporate wh*res) - and has far less falling concrete than RFK.

    The only reason to show the delegation RFK is to let them imagine an empty canvas that will someday feature an 80,000 seat retractable roof Snyder Dome. I'm betting that's what sits on the Stadium-Armory property in 2022. RFK is just done as a viable, relevant sports arena. They can't even add the capacity back to 50k+ because the city (apparently) destroyed the seats that were removed in 2005.

    Also, 1994 and 2010 Cups are largely separate from what FIFA will be planning in 2022. Word is that they are going to shoot for a minimum stadium capacity of 75k or even 80k (expanding capacity at places like Houston's Reliant Stadium and Arizona's U of Phoenix Stadium). I'm guessing the 10 cities chosen will be DC, NY, Boston, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, LA, Miami, Indianapolis and Seattle (the Bay Area or Chicago could work their way into a revised bid, depending on stadium).

  • Tamara

    McKenna is dead right, I think. Just had a great time at the World Cup, in no small part because the stadium in Cape Town is in the city center, walkable and cab-able and surrounded by restaurants and locals. . .

    Fedex is a swank place, with high end hot dogs, yippee. It is in Landover, Maryland, at the end of an abominable traffic jam, every game day. Fedex is NOT the way to show Washington to the world.

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