Less than 14 months ago, D.C. United held a ceremonial groundbreaking on old surface parking lots in a forgotten wedge of the city. Now, Audi Field is close to becoming a reality.
The 20,000-capacity soccer stadium will open July 14 in the Southwest quadrant of Washington, two diagonal blocks from Nationals Park on a peninsula known as Buzzard Point.
Initially estimated to cost $300 million, the project has swelled to about $400 million. The city’s contribution has remained locked in at $150 million for land acquisition and infrastructure; United’s investors are spending $250 million. The team attributed the rise to additional features inside the stadium ($40 million), redevelopment of First Street ($30 million) and other unspecified costs.
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On Monday, with vice president of stadium development and operations Troy Scott leading the way, the Insider donned a hard hat, safety glasses and a neon vest to tour the site.
Looking into the construction site from Half Street. (Photos by Steven Goff/The Washington Post) The main entrance, at the corner of Potomac Avenue and reconfigured First Street, features a glass structure above the box office. To the left, commercial space is available at street level for four businesses. Those will not have occupants in time for the inaugural match. When they do, they’ll operate during regular business hours, not just on match days. The construction site is bustling with activity from dawn to dusk. Thanks to a mild winter, there were few weather-related delays. Wind was the biggest issue. The city is in the process of building sidewalks, repairing the roads, and adding trees and benches to the stretch between Audi Field and Nationals Park. A team store, believed to be the second largest in MLS, will be located behind the north stands in a stand-along building. The EagleBank Club, on the second level of the northeast corner, will have direct access to club seating and suites. The club’s outdoor deck will offer panoramic views of Nationals Park — as well as construction cranes and industrial plants in an evolving part of the city. Troy Scott, who is overseeing the project, points to the Anacostia River, 780 feet from Audi Field. The area is slated for major changes in the coming years, with the addition of housing, a hotel and other commercial projects. The Bermuda-grass playing surface will be 115 yards long and 75 yards wide. RFK Stadium is 110 by 72. Supporters’ groups will occupy the north stands below a video board measuring 3,306 square feet. Next to the supporters’ section is a free-standing structure with suites and a rooftop bar open to all fans. Workers began installing seats Monday — 500 per day for about 40 days. There will be 550 field-level seats and 1,500 club seats. West-side seating is at a 35-degree grade, the east side at 30 degrees. The north and south ends are both 35 degrees. General Manager Dave Kasper listens to Troy Scott describe the players’ entrance. Before kickoff, players will exit the locker rooms housed in a multilevel building in the south end, climb stairs and make a dramatic entrance at field level behind the goal. Fans will line the staircase railings, while others will look down on the procession from the south stands. After gravel is spread over the field location, workers will begin preparing the surface for installation of the grass in early June. The distance from the first row of seats to the sideline is about eight feet. The view from the southwest corner toward the east stands. If you look halfway up the east stands, you’ll find the TV commentating positions at midfield and the press box above the 18-yard box and corner. Suites occupy the rest of the level. In all, there are 31 suites: 29 available for purchase (most are gone, one for use by the city and one for the visiting team.) The lower level on the west side affords a view of not only the field but Nationals Park in the distance between the east stands and north suites/bar. From the north side, the U.S. Capitol is visible about 1 1/2 miles away. From groundbreaking to opening day, 1 year 4 months and 17 days will have passed. After 22 seasons at RFK Stadium — and two off-site home matches this spring, including this Saturday at Navy’s football stadium — United will take residence in Audi Field for the July 14 debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps. (DCU photo)
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