After a long wait, it’s finally here: Audi Field will open its doors on Saturday night for its first match, when D.C. United host the Vancouver Whitecaps (8 pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info).
But just what should you expect if you’re making the pilgrimage for the opener, or for any of D.C.’s 15 remaining home matches this season? Here’s 10 things you should know about Audi Field.
An old-fashioned feel
Although Audi Field will be hosting its first-ever sporting event this Saturday, its footprint resembles some of the more old-fashioned soccer stadiums around the world that were built within the confines of a city block. In particular, R Street to the north and 2nd Street are potentially within reach of wayward shots or clearances, so be on the lookout.
Audi Field was constructed in an area of Washington known as the Southwest Waterfront District, which sits on the Anacostia River not far from where it meets the Potomac River. The plot of land is also in near-shouting distance of Nationals Park, home of baseball’s Washington Nationals.
Currently the teams have avoided scheduling home games on the same day. But if they did, a fan of both could travel from one stadium to the other in a walk of less than half a mile.
It’s about time
Since D.C. United played their inaugural game at RFK Stadium in 1996, all four of Washington’s other major sports teams have moved into new facilities. The NFL team departed RFK for FedExField in the Maryland suburbs in 1997, and later that year the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals moved downtown into what is now Capital One Arena.
The Nationals arrived in 2005 and shared RFK with D.C. United for three seasons before departing for Nationals Park, which opened in March of 2008.
Many ways to get there
Audi Field is less than a mile’s walk from both the Navy Yard and Waterfront stops on the Metro’s Green Line. And thanks in part to the Nationals’ ballpark down the street, there are already roughly 6,500 parking spots in the vicinity, despite the neighborhood’s urban density.
In addition, the club is offering a free bike valet for those who wish to pedal to the match. And Capital Bikeshare is expected to open a dock near the stadium, similar to the one it operates beyond the right field stands at Nationals Park. There's even a riverboat option on gamedays, to and from Alexandria Marina and National Harbor.
Well-known Washington-based chef Jose Andres is among the creators of the concession fare at Audi Field. A select group of media members were treated to a tasting menu of eight new concession items on Thursday, one he helped inspire.
“From our signature Double Smoked Burger and local staple Crab Pretzel to arepas and the RFK Stadium fan favorite papusas, we’ve mindfully built partnerships with local purveyors, artisans and farms across the DMV to bring the best and freshest ingredients in the region to this state-of-the-art facility that is Audi Field,” the menu reads.
Of the 20,000 seats at the new venue, 2,000 are categorized as premium seating, including 500 field-level seats and 1,500 club seats. Field level members will have access to the field-level club in the stadium’s northeast corner that includes all-inclusive food and beverage options. Club level members will be able to access a 10,000-square-foot indoor lounge and 2,500-square-foot outdoor patio.
In addition, the stadium houses 31 luxury suites that buyers can utilize for corporate events even on non-matchdays.
North end noise
The north end of Audi Field will serve as the home supporters’ end, with 1,500 supporters tickets to be allocated for general matchdays, and the option for up to 2,000 to be distributed for special occasions.
Audi Field's west and north stands | D.C. United
With a seating incline of 35 degrees on three sides of the pitch, including behind both goals, the positioning of seats at Audi Field will be among the steepest in MLS. The extra incline will allow for better views across the whole pitch, and also for a packed house of 20,000 people to feel and sound like even more when the home team are doing well.
Although crews are expected to put finishing touches on the stadium up to the grand opening, coach Ben Olsen’s side have already made two visits to the venue to hold intrasquad scrimmages on their new pitch. While very few people were allowed into the sessions, Olsen remarked that he was very pleased with the acoustics of the new place.
While Audi Field may not have the tailgate space that RFK’s famous Lot 8 afforded, there are plenty of options nearby where fans can enjoy a pregame drink, including several outdoors. Field House is the closest option, directly across the street from the south end of the stadium. Bardo, about half a mile to the East up Potomac Avenue and across South Capitol Street, is another popular outdoor spot that affords scenic views of the Anacostia River.