When D.C. United started playing in 56-year-old RFK stadium in 1996, the facility was supposed to be a temporary home. After withstanding years of starts-and-stops on stadium proposal that never seemed like they would materialize, one of the original Major League Soccer teams is now the latest club in the league to win the right to build its own soccer-specific facility.
The team announced a Feb. 27 groundbreaking ceremony for the reported $300-million project on Thursday, the same day the D.C. Zoning Commission approved vertical construction. The commission granted conditional support two months ago. A press releases says United will file for a superstructure permit to start erecting a steel structure above grade. The zoning vote also came a day after it was announced that Audi purchased naming rights for the stadium. Now known as Audi Field, the facility is slated to open in 2018.
The 500,000 total sq-ft mixed-use development will include retail and residential space on site, “making it a 365-day destination for fans and D.C. residents alike,” according to a team press release. With a 20,000-fan capacity and 31 luxury suites, the stadium will also be used for other sporting and culture events, community activates and concerts. The press release also boasted a bike valet.
While community groups have expressed concerns about environmental and transportation issues, the commission voted unanimously despite the fact that two commissioners said they have reservations about the project's design. The stadium is being designed by Populous and Marshall Moya Design. Turner Construction Co. won a $150-million contract this summer to build the stadium. Land and site work are already underway.
Located at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C., the 14-acre project site was selected four years ago after several other sites in the area as well as in Prince George’s county were considered throughout the years. The team also considered relocating to Baltimore or Northern Virginia during that timeframe. In the meantime, 14 other MLS teams have opened new stadiums in since 1999 and two others are slated to open next year.
“We are extremely excited to break ground on this site, a project that has been 21 years in the making," Jason Levien, United Managing Partner, said in a statement. "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. We appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into preparing for this moment and can’t wait to finally put shovels in the ground at the site of our new home, Audi Field.”