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Talk about RFK Stadium, and you get many different reactions. On the one hand, a lot has been written about the current state of RFK and the need for a new stadium. On the other hand, some hardcore fans have cheered RFK's worn and spartan conditions for promoting a soccer-first culture that is exclusively about the club, the soccer, and the fans. And for these fans, D.C. United's 10-1-4 home record so far this year has not disappointed.
For other fans, however, including arguably most casual fans, seeing a winning team and having a great fan experience at the stadium are both key parts of attending a D.C. United match--and getting them to come back for more. I've written before about the Top 5 improvements I think the club could make in the short term to improve RFK for the fans, but I think it's also worth giving the team and stadium credit for things that are going well now and that should be sustained in the new stadium,
So, as D.C. United seeks to extend its two-game winning streak on Sunday vs. Chivas USA in the second-to-the-last home match of the regular season, let's take a moment to look at what the club is doing well for fans at RFK Stadium this season.
1. Free Program--D.C. United's Matchday program is superb, and it is free. Among other things, the program contains up-to-date statistics about the team, the opponent, and the league. I find we use it continually throughout a match as a reference to determine player names on the opposing teams, check the season stats for individual players, review the match report from the last game, preview the next home and away matches, etc. There is also a profile of one of the United players in each issue of Matchday that is consistently well done. Finally, some of the Matchday programs are "winners", and the gold star on back will get you some free team gear (as recently happened to us). This program is easily a $5 value, and it's a great benefit for fans attending the match at RFK.
2. Order from the Seat--While there is no free WiFi at RFK, there is a service called Dasdak that allows you to order food and drink from your seat using their proprietary WiFi network, and have it delivered directly to you within minutes. This is a great service if you don't want to get up and go find a specific vendor during the match or at half-time when everybody else is doing the same thing. The cost is a little bit more, but for the convenience and speed which we've seen with it, it's worth it for fans at the stadium.
3. National Anthem Singers--I don't know what D.C. United does to pick their national anthem singers, but they are consistently excellent. Not only are they very good singers, but they sing the song using the tune we all know and love, and they remember the words (they've also done very well with the Canadian national anthem). Yes, these attributes should be a given for singers selected to lead the stadium in the national anthem, but for those who go to a lot of sporting events, you know this can be chancy. I really can't stand it when singers invent their own tune while singing the national anthem to show off their own voice, leaving the fans unable to sing along, only to butcher our national song. Thanks to D.C. United's good singers, however, we don't have to relive the Christine Aguilera debacle at the 2011 Super Bowl.
4. Discounted Team Gear--At every home match, D.C. United applies a significant discount to one item at the team store. If you like to buy and wear the team's gear, this is one of the pluses of coming out to the stadium. In addition, the main team store at RFK and the satellite kiosks around the stadium have an excellent selection of team gear and superb customer service.
5. Central Seating for Supporters Groups--D.C. United's Supporters Groups probably have the best seating in Major League Soccer. Seated along the sideline, centered on midfield, the Supporters Groups bring their unique energy and passion to the entire stadium. Perhaps if there were seating behind the goals at RFK, or if attendance were better, D.C. United might look for a different place for the Supporters Groups. But it's smart marketing to reward your best fans with the best seats, and to have them as the backdrop for your telecasts. Let's hope this is continued in the new stadium.
What about you? What are the best things for the fans at RFK this season?