Testimony of Ben Olsen
Head coach, D.C. United
Hearing on the Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014
Council of the District of Columbia
June 26, 2014
Good morning Chairman Mendelson and Members of the Council. My name is Ben Olsen. I am the head coach of D.C. United. Of course, I am here to express my support for the proposed stadium at Buzzard Point. In fact, I may be the most biased person in the room. But I can also tell you, without a doubt, that this is your chance to affirm that the District of Columbia is the soccer capital of this country.
I am here today as a Washingtonian, a representative of this proud city. I am someone who has been a part of its great resurgence, someone who is committed to seeing it improve, prosper and realize its potential for generations to come.
The District of Columbia has been my home for more than a decade and a half. Fresh out of the University of Virginia, I embraced the city just as D.C. United did in its early days. Just as supporters groups sprouted organically, I naturally dove into the culture and vibrancy of the District. The fans and the team were both diverse, and they fed on one another’s spirit and success. RFK Stadium, where I plied my trade and where the fans made the stands bounce, was a hallowed ground for soccer. The foundation for the sea change we are witnessing with the current World Cup was laid.
Today, years later, I am now a husband, father, and homeowner. I have children enrolled in a District charter school. I work, eat, shop, pay taxes, live and breathe every day inside D.C.’s borders. It is part of who I am and who I have become. I am privileged to be part of a city that has more to offer than ever before. My role with D.C. United is to win games and bring home championships. But more than ever, the team’s future, and the District’s future, are intertwined.
And each time I go on the road, I am reminded of how the District is being left behind. Again and again around the country, I have witnessed new venues open that celebrate the game and enrich the cities where they are built.
But not here. It’s no secret that the luster of RFK has faded.
There is no city in this country that is more global or influential or has thrived more on the growth of soccer. It is the world’s game, and it is part of the fabric of this city. It is no wonder the highest TV ratings for the World Cup are here. There should be no place better to see or play the game in the United States.
I come before you today because I know that a transformation is possible with a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. It must be now. It must be here, inside the city limits. This is when the nation’s capital shows it deserves to be the soccer capital of the country.
At Buzzard Point, a soccer stadium will play a defining role for the next generation of District residents, a group that includes my children. I want them to have the chance to see and be a part of a legacy on and off the field. I want them to have a place to see a sport that is unifying, inclusive and reflective of the District. This makes me no different than anyone else who lives in D.C., than anyone who believes in this city and its potential, anyone who knows that a sports team and its community must be committed to one another.
My dream is for my children to be able to watch a game in a stadium and in a neighborhood that they are proud of.
Thank you for allowing me to testify today.