“The Washington Spirit will accept nothing less than world-class facilities for players and fans, and we apologize for the burden these circumstances have caused for Spirit Nation, our players and staff,” managing partner Steve Baldwin said in a written statement.
Baldwin said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird “issued us a letter [last week] stating that the May 26 match needed to be moved to a different venue.”
In a statement Sunday, the NWSL said “construction delays” precipitated the venue change but made no mention of league standards.
A person close to the situation said the stadium fails to meet several requirements, such as running water in locker rooms and restrooms. “Water ‘trailers’ do not meet NWSL standards,” the person said.
However, two people close to the situation said Segra Field would have met all NWSL stadium requirements by game time.
Baldwin said the Spirit’s request to move the game to Audi Field in the District — the stadium where his team will play most of its home matches this season — was rejected by D.C. United, which operates both venues.
United officials said they did agree to allow the Spirit to play at Audi Field.
In an interview, Lindsay Barenz, the Spirit’s president of business operations, acknowledged that but said, “They set a variety of conditions on the request, some of which would be impossible to satisfy, others of which were overreaching. We’ve been put in an impossible position. They want us to do something we don’t have the power to do.”
One person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said United wanted a commitment from the NWSL team that it would play its four other scheduled matches at Segra Field this season after renovations were completed and it would notify United of any issues well in advance of the matches.
Neither the Spirit nor United specified conditions.
Both of the Spirit’s home matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup, a preseason tournament, were abruptly moved to Audi Field from Segra Field because of construction issues.
In a statement, Segra Field officials said they have been “working diligently to prepare the stadium” for the Spirit’s home opener and that other sporting events have taken place there this spring.
The Spirit’s home opener now will be June 6 at Audi Field, meaning it will play its first four games — and six of seven — on the road. Washington’s first appearance at Segra Field now is slated for July 2.
In its partnership with D.C. United, the Spirit was scheduled to play five of 12 regular season home matches at Segra Field and seven at Audi Field. Barenz said she “doesn’t think it will be possible” to recoup the lost home date and the Spirit will end up playing 11 at home and 13 away.
Washington was based at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County from 2013 to 2019, but in an effort to play regularly at Audi Field, it struck a deal with United. As part of the pact, the Spirit agreed to leave SoccerPlex, play the balance of the home schedule at Segra Field and move into United’s new training center in Leesburg this fall.
The Spirit played two home matches at Segra Field last fall.
Asked about the partnership being damaged by this venue issue, Barenz said, “I hope it can be a reset for our relationship and moving forward we can improve our business partnership.”