I am not a Barcelona fan, but I do love good soccer and its history. So, this summer when I found myself in Barcelona on a trip to Europe, I wanted to see Camp Nou, one of the true hallowed grounds of world soccer. Unfortunately, the La Liga season was already over so seeing a game wasn't an option, but we were able to take a tour of Camp Nou. Now this isn't the kind of tour where you meet at a chained gate at a specific time to be let in for a quick view of the field by a team intern. No, the Camp Nou tour is a professional and pricey extravaganza known as the Camp Nou Experience. It cost ~$31 per adult, but it was worth every penny/euro/doubloon we paid.
As a D.C. United fan, I visited Camp Nou with an eye toward identifying some things I'd like to see adopted into the Black-and-Red's new Buzzard Point stadium. Of course, the Buzzard Point stadium will only have about a quarter of Camp Nou's capacity, and it won't hold four UEFA Champions League trophies like Camp Nou does (but then again, Camp Nou doesn't have four MLS Cups either!). But there are some elements, some best practices if you will, I'd like to see included in D.C. United's new stadium:
1. Respect for the game, respect for D.C. United's history, and respect for the fans. It's hard to describe, but Camp Nou is dripping with respect and class. Walk into the visiting team's locker room, and there are video displays scrolling through images of the greatest soccer players that have come to Camp Nou to take on Barcelona (click through the gallery above to find out which American player pops up on those displays alongside other legendary players). While we don't speak Catalan, and only limited Spanish, nowhere did we see jokes, slanders, or slurs directed toward Barcelona's rivals--including Real Madrid. I'm sure Barcelona fans enjoy going back and forth with Real fans, but that's not evident during the tour of Camp Nou--only respect. I like how the club apparently leaves the overt displays of those rivalries to their fans. All of Camp Nou is about Barcelona and its history, to include its most memorable matches and moments, its greatest opponents, and the storied locations at which they've played. And finally, the amazing respect Barcelona shows for their fans by incorporating them into the museum displays is tremendous. D.C. United is America's (and Canada's) most accomplished club and this quality of respect for the game, the club, its history, and its fans should be a major part of Buzzard Point.
2. A first-class museum that highlights the team's accomplishments and engages its fans. Camp Nou's museum is a tribute to the history and achievements of FC Barcelona. Buzzard Point stadium will be space constrained, so any D.C. United museum there won't be nearly the size of Camp Nou's, but here's hoping that space will be carved out somewhere in the new stadium for an awesome place to display (and tell the story of) the team's 13 major trophies and its history. While the high school-esque trophy cases currently on the upper floors of RFK Stadium have a certain charm, I want to see that silverware in a purpose-built facility honoring those victories. Let's also hope that the team brings to life its history in the new stadium in a multi-media way that will allow old and new fans alike to relive the club's great moments. What was it like when Eddie Pope scored the golden goal in a driving rain storm to win the first MLS Cup against the LA Galaxy? How did a team earn both the Wooden Spoon and the US Open Cup in the same year? It's painfully clear now how it happened, but in the future the story should be told in a museum on Buzzard Point.
3. A purpose-built team store. I'm a fan of D.C. United's current team store. I've always received good customer service there, and they have a varied selection, but it is very cramped on game day. In the new stadium, let's build a bigger store with D.C. United elements and history designed into it from the beginning.
If you've never been to Camp Nou, flip through the gallery above. There's a caption on most of the pictures explaining what's being shown. What would you like to see incorporated into the new D.C. United stadium?
Photos by Tammy Whiting.
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