D.C. United’s Will Chang has been going it alone since Victor MacFarlane left three years ago. He’s had the run of things in the owner’s suite at RFK Stadium. Today, that suite needs a sign-up sheet, with two new owners added to the company stationary.
At a news conference this morning, Chang and team president Kevin Payne introduced two new members of United’s ownership group. Erick Thohir – Indonesian media mogul who owns a stake in the Philadelphia 76ers – is D.C.’s new majority investor. Jason Levien, also part of the ownership group with the 76ers, is also on board, providing a significant boost to United’s financial muscle.
Of course, nobody knows exactly how much of a boost, but if Thorir is able to move Chang off the majority investor’s title, it’s got to be pretty big – big enough to take direct aim at the elephant in the room.
“In terms of the financial resources with Eric and Jason, we’re so much stronger financially and Jason has a clear mandate from Eric and I to pursue opportunities on that basis,” Chang said, in comments published by MLSSoccer.com. “That we are much stronger financially to be able to find a permanent home for ourselves.”
D.C. United needs a new stadium, or else they’re not going to stay in the District. These days, that means significant investment on the private end with the hope the municipality can provide something (free land, tax breaks … bus passes).
United just didn’t have that punch before, hence their continued occupancy of RFK Stadium, which has slowly garnered the reputation of being the worst venue in the league. Some love its charm, but it’s an anachronistic charm. Its MLS’s foray into hipsterism.
More important: Everybody from Don Garber down to the cabbie who’ll take you from Dulles agree United needs to bounce. Relocation’s been threatened, though with Thohir and Levien on board, that threat should subside.
The leading proposed stadium plan is for Buzzard Point, reasonably close where the Nationals play. The plan’s more concept than blueprint (some of the land owners insist they haven’t even been approached), but the idea has some city council support.
As fans in San Jose will tell you, stadium plans can come and go. D.C.’s had their own share of the game, though ask a fan in Houston or Kansas City about the eventual pay off, they’ll tell you it’s worth the pain.
With their new ownership group in place, United can start the process of ending that pain. Before the team was looking for opportunities. Now, they’ll have the financial power to create their own.