D.C. United, City Officials Cut The Ribbon At Audi Field Ahead Of Saturday's Opening Match
For the third time in just over two decades, D.C. has cut the ribbon on a new professional sports stadium.
D.C. United and District officials came together Monday to celebrate the opening of Audi Field, the club's new 20,000-seat stadium on Southwest D.C.'s Buzzard Point.
The Major League Soccer club will play its first game at Audi Field Saturday, after playing the first portion of its 2018 season on the road. Ahead of the stadium's opening, D.C. United signed legendary English soccer player Wayne Rooney, who greeted fans at Monday's ribbon-cutting.
The $300M Audi Field was jointly financed by the District and D.C. United. The site, located at Second Street and Potomac Avenue SW, sits less than half a mile from Nationals Park. The stadium will also feature a 14K SF retail corridor and a 40K SF public plaza.
"It is not just a cathedral for soccer in our nation's capital, but a next-generation community space for concerts, music festivals and much, much more," D.C. United Managing General Partner Jason Levien said at the ribbon-cutting.
D.C. acquired a 2-acre portion of the site from Akridge through eminent domain in 2015, but the city and the developer remain embroiled in a legal battle over the site. A judge ordered D.C. to pay Akridge $32M last month, but the District is appealing the verdict.
Ahead of its February 2017 groundbreaking, the club reached a deal with Audi for the stadium's naming rights. D.C. boasts that it is expected to attract 1 million annual visitors and spur over $1.6B in economic activity over the stadium's lifetime.
"We the city agreed to take care of the land, the team made a huge investment in building this building and the fans and the players are going to make sure we have championships here for years to come," Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Audi Field is the 19th soccer-specific stadium to be completed for an MLS club, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at the ribbon-cutting, and that number will reach 25 in the coming years. Several other stadiums from Miami to Austin to Minnesota are in various stages of planning and construction.
Just as the MCI Center, now the Capital One Arena, spurred development in D.C.'s East End after its 1997 opening and Nationals Park revitalized the Capitol Riverfront area after its 2008 opening, Audi Field is expected to transform the Buzzard Point neighborhood. Top D.C. developers such as Akridge, MRP Realty and Douglas Development own nearby sites on which they plan to build multifamily, office and retail. The sites around the stadium were included in D.C.'s bid for Amazon HQ2.
"I hope this stadium sends a strong message about our city to the whole country, including a certain Pacific Northwest-based company I'm told is deciding where to break ground on its second headquarters," D.C. United General Partner Erick Thohir said.