- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

D.C. United and the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission have reached a lease deal in principle for the team to remain at RFK Stadium for the 2003 season.
In recent months, United officials had been outspoken about the frustration caused by the commission's active pursuit of baseball, and successfully meshing soccer with baseball remains a serious concern for the club.
Many of those concerns, such as having baseball basepaths cut into the RFK grass and potential schedule conflicts, remain open questions. But both sides have chosen to move ahead anyway, plan for next year and address specific issues as they become more clear. Final documents are expected to be signed by year's end.
"We will be at RFK next year," said Kevin Payne, managing director for the soccer operations of Anschutz Entertainment Group, operators of D.C. United. "Most of the deal points have been worked out. Obviously, we would prefer to not share the stadium with baseball. But we've continued to have constructive discussions, have operated in good faith, and are close to getting this deal done. I hope that over the next few months, we'll get most of these details worked out."
The sports commission, along with Washington Baseball Club, have feverishly sought a Major League Baseball franchise, and the status of the MLB-owned and operated Montreal Expos for 2003 is uncertain. A move to Washington and RFK is possible, with some answer possible by middle to late October. If the Expos do move to Washington, Payne said he also expects an adjustment on the soccer team's contract terms.
"I'm not going to negotiate publicly, but, yes, if there is baseball, we would expect some accommodation and have further discussions about how that would affect us financially," Payne said.
Payne said he never considered moving United to another facility in the area.
For much of United's seven-year history, the team has paid about $60,000 a game to use RFK Stadium, and the commission keeps nearly all revenues gained from parking and concessions.
Meanwhile, the commission and United continue to discuss building a new soccer-specific stadium on lot 8 at RFK. Such plans already have been delayed for more than a year, but both sides are now hoping for a deal late this year or early in 2003. Contract terms have not been determined, but it is likely AEG and the commission would share construction costs if the project happens.
"We are proceeding in a positive fashion," said Bobby Goldwater, sports commission president. "The goal, still, is to construct a situation for a new stadium that is workable for everyone. We're still at this."
United, which ended its 2002 season Thursday, finished the campaign with an average attendance of 16,519, down 23 percent from a year ago.

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