Stadium Journey Speaks To The Lead Designer Of Audi Field
On July 14th, MLS squad D.C. United opened their new home, Audi Field, with an inaugural match win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Some fans may most remember the Yamil Asad score that became the first goal in Audi Field history, or the first appearance for Wayne Rooney in the MLS, but all should eventually be happy to leave the team’s long term home of RFK Stadium, built in 1961 and home from the team’s beginning up to the end of last season.
There were some ups and downs on opening day, as the team’s sideline reporter was hit by a railing that came loose, some of the supporter groups protested the game because of some ticketing decisions, and a move to digital ticketing confusing some fans. The physical fixes have since been worked on and the issue with the supporter groups looks like it is on its way towards resolution. With many teams and stadiums moving to the all digital option, expect fans to eventually figure that one out, even if reluctantly. The team is also installing additional game clocks to give the fans a bit more options to keep track of the game progress, another small complaint that came from that opening match.
The brand-new, state-of-the-art soccer stadium, seats 20,000 and is located in the Buzzard Point neighborhood of southwest Washington, not too far from Nationals Park, along the Anacostia River. The architectural firm Populous, with a large amount of stadiums in it’s design portfolio, was tasked with the demanding design of Audi Field.
Stadium Journey spoke to Todd Spangler, lead designer of Audi Field, about the various demands tasked to the design team.
Because of the small stadium footprint Spangler and the Populous team had to be creative and still allow the stadium to “connect to the neighborhood.” Some pitch-level suites are just eight feet from the field and the main concourse is also located at field level, with an opening near the main gate where fans can see in from outside.
Spangler even admits the stadium is fairly steep, calling it “intimate”. This steepness even continues to the north end and an even more steeply pitched area designated for supporters’ groups. Some were surprised this area was not designed purely for standing, with safety rails, but instead offers the fans an option for seating. Spangler believes the seats give the fans a nice option, just in case.
The small acreage and design placement also necessities late starting matches to keep the sun in bay.
Audi Field has achieved LEED Gold certification, with state-of-the-art energy and storm water collection systems. The team is slated to have solar panels installed this fall, which will lessen the stadiums carbon footprint.
D.C. United was the MLS team most in need of a new place to play, and Audi Field appears to be a welcome addition to the United States soccer landscape.
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