It's been a long time coming, but D.C. United fans could be cheering on the Black-and-Red in United's own soccer-specific stadium as early as 2016. Though it will be in a new building, the club will remain in a city, they've always called 'home.'
"The winningest franchise in Major League Soccer will be staying right here in our Nation's Capital," announced Mayor Vincent Gray on July 25 at a joint press conference with D.C. United. Although many more steps must take before shovels hit the ground, United fans, front office, players and coaches are already filled with excitement and anticipation for 2016.
City Administrator Allen Lew says this stadium deal is all "about economic development." Officials and experts say the new stadium will bring more jobs to D.C. residents, with at least 51 percent of the jobs at the stadium going to District residents, as well as improve the economy of the neighborhood. Experts indicate that over $330 million in fiscal benefits to D.C. over 30 years will be generated through tax revenues from the stadium activities.
A new D.C. United stadium presents a 'win-win' opportunity and the club wouldn't want it to be any other way. After all, the organization is D.C. through and through -- the team's new home should be in the District and, through a host of local partnerships and philanthropic programs, the organization will continue to be a productive part of building the community for generations to come.
"The realization of a soccer stadium in the District is a reflection of D.C. United's role within the fabric of the city and the sport," said United Managing Partner Jason Levien.
That United is a part of the District's 'fabric' should come as no surprise -- given the club's appetite for local community partnerships and ambitious schedule of philanthropic activities. A couple of weeks back, D.C. United was on hand as Ben's Chili Bowl celebrated its 55th anniversary with hundreds of D.C. residents. At the event hosted by comedy legend Bill Cosby and attended by Mayor Gray and Councilman Marion Barry, United's own Chris Pontius, presented both Cosby and Ben's owner Virginia Ali custom No. 55 jerseys.
This wasn't the club's first visit to the iconic location. In 2011, D.C. United took over Ben's Chili Bowl -- the sign outside even read "Ben Olsen's Chili Bowl" for the day. Players and coaches worked behind the counter, meeting Ben's faithful and learning just how much both Ben's Chili Bowl and D.C. United mean to the community.
D.C. United has also found local partnerships an ideal way to bring neighbors together. With bar partners strewn throughout the District, there is always an accessible location for a viewing party to watch United matches. More than simply providing a television, good food and beer, bar partners cultivate that same sense of community United prides itself on creating and maintaining.
Many of these locations benefitted from another of United's local partnerships, as 34 D.C. bars served 'The Tradition' this summer. Through a collaboration with DC Brau, D.C. United developed its own craft beer. The local brewery, with a distinctively D.C. slogan, "Fermentation without Representation," brews beloved beers such as 'The Citizen' and 'The Public.'
United's political and social reform positions are also reflections of the club's commitment to the people of the District. A resident of the District, D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen is an active proponent for D.C. Voters' Rights.
"I have lived in this city since 2000 and I am proud to call it my home," said Olsen in an interview with dcvote.org last year. "I, along with my family, friends, and every other District resident, should have a voice when it comes to matters that affect each of us on a daily basis."
While Olsen works hard on D.C. voters' issues, D.C. United is also at the forefront of efforts for equality, evidenced by extensive support for LGBT causes in the District. The club's daily community service activities address issues ranging homelessness and hunger to activity and educational deficiencies among the District's youth. This month alone, United staff, players and supporters worked at D.C. Central Kitchen, preparing thousands of meals for those in need and participated in D.C. Public Schools Beautification Day, cleaning up Capitol Hill's Payne Elementary School. Additionally, United for D.C., D.C. United's own charitable arm, runs Kicks for Kids, United Soccer Club and United Reads which touches hundreds of kids' lives each year in areas throughout the District.
D.C. truly has a team that understands the District at its core. That team is D.C. United. "We're completely committed to the District," Levien recently told The Washington Post. Added Olsen at the July 25th press conference: "This city deserves this team, and this team deserves the city."