The Washington Times - July 26, 2013, 04:27PM

One year after Jason Levien and Erick Thohir joined Will Chang in D.C. United’s ownership group, the team and D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced plans Thursday for a $300 million soccer-specific stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest.

My print edition story broke down the reaction to plan, with the paper also including a fantastic shot of D.C. Council member Marion Barry being embraced by United fans. Only so much of the post-news conference availability with Levien and United coach Ben Olsen could make it in, however, so here’s the full transcript. (Also, don’t forget to check out the official term sheet for more details.)


United co-owner Jason Levien

On the immediate impact of this announcement:

I think it’s going to be a really good push in the right direction. I think it’s going to drive our culture and our fans and our team to new heights. I think this is a long time coming, and I think there’s going to be a pep in everyone’s step in the locker room. I’ve talked to our players and our coaches and our management about this — this is something everyone wanted to see happen, and I think it’s going to resonate on the field.

On possible stadium designs:

We’ve traveled around the country looking at stadiums. We’ve also traveled internationally looking at different stadiums, soccer-specific stadiums, understanding what works and what doesn’t work, and we want to embrace what’s best, the best practices. So we’re looking at those now. We’ve spent the past 12 months doing that, we’ve spoken to different architects in getting these renderings and also thinking through what’s going to be best for our fans, what’s going to be best for the community on this specific site.

On the commitment to the deal:

I think the commitment level is there. I have a lot of confidence in this administration, I have a lot of confidence in the community that this is going to be a reality. So we’re all in on this opportunity. We’ve signed a term sheet that requires us to move forward, we want to move forward, and we’re just thrilled we have this opportunity. I can tell you over the past 12 months there have been stops and starts along the way. There have been important issues to the city, understandably, certain things that were important for our team and our ownership group. Getting here is quite an accomplishment.

On United’s current stadium experience compared to other MLS teams:

RFK is a great building, a historic building. And there’s just great history there, no question. But our fans, we can improve the experience for them. We can improve the experience for our players and our fans, and I think we can improve the experience to such a degree that I think we’re going to get more fans, we’re going to get more people in the District and the surrounding areas excited about the game of soccer, excited about MLS.

On the team’s current financial situation at RFK:

We’ve updated the lease and made it a little more D.C. United-friendly. But the opportunities for us to create the right kind of corporate partnerships and the right kind of season-ticket experiences aren’t there. It’s going to be a dramatic increase when we go into a stadium. I think you’re going to see, starting today, a real surge in support from our corporate partners, from our fans, because they’re going to see the road we have now to the new stadium right here. A lot of people wanted to see it happen in the District, in an area with an urban environment like this. This is one of the few remaining parts of this city that has this opportunity for this kind of economic development. I think it’s going to really catapult us in terms of our opportunities as an organization.

On the development of the area surrounding Buzzard Point:

You do see development popping up. Restaurants like Gordon Biersch that weren’t here before, there’s demand for a hotel now that wasn’t there, there are apartment buildings. You look around this area, you can really see the future.

On the planned streetcar system:

The cable car is going to be stopping right at the stadium — literally right there. That’s another really great opportunity for public transportation to come to the games. It wasn’t mentioned at the press conference, but that’s something I think that’s going to be exciting in addition to the Metro.

United coach Ben Olsen

On his reaction to the announcement:

I’m thrilled, as you can imagine. I don’t think anyone’s surprised that I’m over the moon about the situation. I love this city, I love this team, and today they come together with a huge first step to get us the stadium we’ve deserved, the stadium our fans deserve, the players before me have deserved, the coaches before me have deserved, the front office before us deserved. It’s a great day.

On whether he’s had concerns the team might never get a deal done:

I believe in the District, and I believe in this team being in the District. Our ownership has done a very good job in a short amount of time to push this tangible first step through, and now there’s a lot of work to do, from what I hear. But again, with Jason Levien at the helm, he’s not going to take no for an answer. He’s going to push this thing through until we get to the big house.

On the possibilities for growth in the area prompted by the stadium:

I live in an area of the city [Shaw] that went through a process like this. For better or worse, I don’t want to get into the big debate of that. But I believe that a stadium here will help this community, whether it’s jobs, energy level, the connection with the proximity to the baseball stadium. It’s an unbelievable area and an unbelievable community, and hopefully they embrace us and we can work together and get this thing rolling.

On the players’ reaction to the news:

It’s a transient business, you know. I think there’s a buzz, for sure. There’s an excitement, and a little good news right now surrounding D.C. United is a very positive thing in a season that hasn’t been great. Hopefully this will give us a little pep going into the weekend against New England. Nothing necessarily changes on the soccer front in the next several years. It’s still building our group of young guys, teaching and growing this core group that, when we do get a stadium, is a team this city can be very proud of.