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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Audi Field – Washington Spirit

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Audi Field 100 Potomac Avenue SW Washington, DC 20024

Washington Spirit website Audi Field website

Year Opened: 2018

Capacity: 20,000


United Spirit?

The Washington Spirit is a charter member of the National Women’s Soccer League, beginning play in the inaugural 2013 season. From 2013 to 2017, the Spirit played all their home games at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland, but as the popularity of women’s soccer in the United States grew, they began to outgrow the 4,000-seat venue. In 2018 and 2019, the Spirit played most of their games at the Plex but played a handful in downtown Washington, D.C. at Audi Field, also home of MLS team D.C. United. For 2020, the plan was to play four games each at the SoccerPlex, Audi Field, and Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia, before permanently moving out of the Plex in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were unable to follow through with their plans in 2020, but beginning in 2021, the Spirit split their games equally between Audi and Segra Field. This review deals with the experience at Audi Field, and a review of the Segra Field experience is also available.

Food & Beverage 4

Audi Field offers a wide range of concession items, although this ranking does come down a point because not all of them are always open for Spirit games. In addition to classic options such as burgers, chicken tenders, and pizza, fans can pick from more unique options such as pupusas and arepas Soda, bottled water, and beer, which are also available. Prices are very high given this is an MLS venue, but discounts are available on some items if you use Apple Pay.

Atmosphere 3

Other than the Supporters’ Section (more on that later), every seat at Audi Field is a chairback. There are two levels plus suites, although the upper level is typically closed for Spirit games unless they are expecting a large crowd. There is a large video board behind the Supporters’ Section, although fans on that side of the field will have to turn around to look at it as there is nothing on the other side except for a small board which shows the score, game clock, advertisements, and nothing else.

The Spirit has a mascot, an eagle named PK, and does a lot to promote the atmosphere during the game, ranging from on-field contests at halftime to giveaways at the gate.

There is a Supporters’ Section behind the north goal where the Spirit Squadron stands and cheers for the entire game bringing a tremendous amount of energy. Unfortunately, a scandal, still ongoing as of the time of writing, in which team ownership tolerated Spirit coach Richie Burke’s abuse of players for years has led to many fans, particularly Spirit Squadron members, boycotting Spirit games until Steve Baldwin is removed as owner.

In soccer, much of the atmosphere comes from fans, particularly Supporters Groups, and when they don’t show up, it hurts the atmosphere. The team has attempted to drum up support from those who remain, such as by handing out thunder sticks at the entrance, but with minimal success as astroturfing, support does not generally work in soccer. This is a rating that will go up significantly once the Spirit Squadron returns, but it doesn’t look like that will happen until Baldwin is gone.

Neighborhood 4

Audi Field is located in an up-and-coming part of D.C., near Buzzard Point. There is currently a lot of construction going on around the stadium, so expect it to improve even more in the future. For now, All About Burger is a popular local burger place located a few blocks from the stadium, and there are other options closer to Nationals Park.

Of course, you are in Washington, D.C., so there is plenty to do if you head towards the National Mall, and much of it is free. Just keep in mind if you want to tour the White House or Capitol, you will need to book that in advance.

Fans 3

As noted above, Spirit Fans are great when they show up, but due to the current situation surrounding ownership, they are not showing up in nearly the numbers they once did. The Spirit Squadron stands behind the north goal in the Supporters Section, cheering, shouting, singing, and banging drums for the entire game. However, when we attended, the loudest they got all game was when they chanted for Baldwin to sell the team. It still can get loud here, especially during big moments or after Spirit goals, but it isn’t the same as it was before news broke of the scandal and the boycotts started. The fan support has been much stronger before, and will likely be much stronger again if and when there is a change in ownership, and not a moment sooner.

Access 3

When going to Audi Field, your best bet is to use public transit or a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft. If taking Metro, take the Green Line to Navy Yard-Ballpark and walk about ten minutes to the stadium. If arriving at the stadium by car (whether one driven by you or an Uber/Lyft driver) there is a lot of construction surrounding the stadium right now so it may be hard to figure out how to get right there, although an Uber/Lyft driver should be able to get you close. Parking is very limited and can be purchased in advance through SpotHero, but the cheapest spots will cost about $25 and can be located a 15-minute walk from the stadium. To get closer will cost you twice that. There is no dedicated stadium parking lot like at Segra or the SoccerPlex. A limited amount of metered street parking is available but arrive early if you want to park close.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets start at $25 for seats in the corners or behind the goals and go up to $65 for seats near midfield or even more for suites. Just keep in mind if you buy the cheap seats that the Supporters Section is behind the north goal and that area is safe standing only, so you will be standing for the full 90 minutes. You may also have your view obstructed by waving flags at times. However, there are plenty of other $25 seats available if this is not your thing. Concessions can also get expensive because this is an MLS venue.

Extras 2

One bonus star for the tremendous energy brought by the Spirit Squadron. Although they are smaller in number than they once were, that is entirely due to the team’s actions (and inactions) and is not a criticism of the Squadron in the slightest.

A second and final start for all the outreach the Spirit does with youth soccer leagues in the area. Bringing kids to watch a game in a stadium many of them dream of playing at someday is a great opportunity to grow the sport, and you will find many such groups in attendance at any given game.

Final Thoughts

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the Spirit and the NWSL as a whole seemed to be gaining significant momentum, with the Plex sold out for basically every game in the second half. The Spirit took this as a sign they should move on to bigger and better things and play half their games at the much larger Audi Field downtown. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of the 2020 season seemed to halt some of that momentum, but the Spirit was still going strong until the recent scandal broke. That has put a significant damper on attendance and atmosphere at Spirit games, and hopefully, the club can find some way to regain the momentum before it’s too late. It looks like there is almost no chance of that happening until Steve Baldwin either sells the team or is otherwise removed as owner.

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