Audi Field Debut Reveals Work Still Needed On WiFi, Fan Atmosphere
DC United "ushered in a new era" with the opening of Audi Field on Saturday night, and the debut was a "successful one" as the team drew 20,504 fans for a match that also featured F Wayne Rooney's MLS debut, according to Emily Giambalvo of the WASHINGTON POST. There was an "intimate environment" created by stands that are "positioned at an angle as steep as 35 degrees. The venue is "quite a contrast from the larger-than-necessary RFK Stadium." DC United MF Paul Arriola said, "It was awesome. To look up and see the fans right on top of you." More than two hours before the match, hundreds of fans "gathered outside," where former players John Harkes and Jaime Moreno "signed autographs and posed for photos." Meanwhile, Rooney "made his DC debut in the 58th minute and was greeted with a standing ovation" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/15).
WORK TO BE DONE: In DC, Jerry Brewer wrote Audi Field's opening "wasn't all that grand." Brewer: "It was simple, understated. Some might say tasteful. Others might say underwhelming." The stadium is "a jolt, not a cure-all." Of the "strange and sporadic energy" in the stadium, DC United Coach Ben Olsen "could only say about the vibe: 'It got there. The energy got there.'" Ultimately, an atmosphere "must be created." It "can’t be built." If United "does its part, this place should be loud and intimidating." Meanwhile, Brewer noted a railing "hit sideline reporter Lindsay Simpson before the match, and medical staff had to treat her." Stadium workers "responded by using duct tape to reinforce several railings in the stadium." There were "less dangerous glitches and issues, too: unwrapped paper towel dispensers in bathrooms" and "uneven concession lines." However, for a franchise "trying to make a comeback, this was a start" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/15). ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle noted some fans "encountered poor cellphone and Wi-Fi reception outside the stadium, which prevented the loading of mobile tickets." The poor WiFi and cell reception also "extended to the press box" (ESPN.com, 7/15).
SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? MLS Commissioner Don Garber said of Audi Field, "It's a fantastic facility right in the center of ... a rebirth of the waterfront there. DC United waited for 23 years for Audi Field. They've been great partners." Garber said of postponing the vote for an MLS stadium in Miami, "This is a billion-dollar project. Not just an MLS team stadium. ... All good things come to those who wait. ... Breaking ground and cutting that ribbon in DC gives me hope in Miami, it gives me hope in New York City with NYCFC, and gives me hope with the Revolution in Boston" ("FIFA World Cup Tonight," FS1, 7/13).
CENTER OF ATTENTION: In DC, Samantha Pell noted fans were "clamoring for Rooney's jersey inside the team store" before the Whitecaps-DC United game began. It was "only the latest iteration of the frenzy that followed Rooney's arrival." At the venue there was a "scattering of Rooney jerseys on the backs of supporters, young and old" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/15). PRO SOCCER USA's Emily Olsen noted the "loudest cheers in the first half came from the southeast corner of the stadium." On two separate occasions, Rooney "made his way over to the end of the field, and each time the crowd closest to the forward erupted in applause." It was an "applause for simply warming up" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 7/15). Olsen wrote Rooney "seamlessly transformed" United into an "offensive power" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 7/14).
THOUGHT FOR FOOD: In DC, Scott Allen noted the concession menu inside Audi Field was "developed in collaboration" with Levy Restaurants and chef Jose Andres' ThinkFoodGroup and "features tastes from all over the world, locally sourced ingredients and a fan favorite holdover from RFK Stadium." Beverage-wise, ThinkFoodGroup will "offer draft specialty cocktails at four stands throughout the stadium." Wine will be "available on tap and there will be self-serve refills for non-alcoholic beverages with the purchase of a souvenir cup." The Crossbar Beer Garden, located behind the supporters’ stand in Sections 135 and 136, "will feature eight beers from four breweries" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/14).