Audi Field

D.C. United stadium approved, despite design “disappointment”

Architecture East Newsletter
D.C. United get the go ahead on new stadium, but people still aren't happy. (Courtesy D.C. United)
D.C. United get the go ahead on new stadium, but people still aren't happy. (Courtesy D.C. United)

On February 16, D.C. United was granted approval by the D.C. Zoning Commission for the construction of Audi Field, the MLS team’s new $300 million stadium designed by stadia specialists Populous and local practice Marshall Moya Design. On February 27, this coming Monday, ground will break on-site at Half Street at 3 p.m.

The process, however, hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Although the five-member committee was unanimous in their decision, zoning commissioners Peter May and Michael Turnbull were reluctant in doing so. “I still do feel like this application left something to be desired,” said May. “I am still disappointed in the design. It has been a disappointment all the way through. I hope it turns out better than expected.”

The stadium will be built at Buzzard Point near the Anacostia River. The site was determined four years ago, but issues raised by the Buzzard Point advisory neighborhood commission and the D.C. Department of Transportation induced delays. Problems relating to public space, retail, parking, and the environment were ironed out in December when the design went before commissioners; the stadium was then awarded prior approval at the time. Even then, however, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood remarked that “major work” was still required with regard to transport in and around the site.

(Courtesy D.C. United)

(Courtesy D.C. United)

In response to neighborhood concerns, the soccer team will donate $50,000 to non-profit organization Breathe DC for the purchase of air purifiers, as well as put in place a bike sharing facility with parking for 447 bicycles. 500,000 square feet (total) of retail space is also now part of the development. Plans, though, are yet to be finalized for parking and traffic management when D.C.’s baseball team, the Washington Nationals, play a few blocks down the road.

Aside from the concerns, Audi Field is due to open in 2018. The new stadium will boast a capacity of 20,000 and offer 31 luxury suites. The arena is set to host numerous sporting and cultural events, community activities, and concerts. “We are extremely excited to break ground on this site, a project that has been 21 years in the making,” said Jason Levien, United managing partner. “Since Erick [Thohir] and I assumed stewardship in 2012 we’ve been on a mission to deliver to our fans and this community a new, permanent home.”

D.C. United currently play at the RFK Stadium, the area around of which is the focus of OMA’s New York office for a major upheaval. The estimated $500 million proposal includes three ballfields (two for baseball, one for youth soccer), a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex, and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries and concessions.

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