Post Date: June 06, 2017
Since the 1995 debut of the Verizon Center — aka the Chinatown-located home of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics, and Valor — professional sports in the Nation’s Capital have exploded in popularity, in a manner similar to the area’s population. Now, with roughly 1000 new residents to DC proper arriving each month, as well as a rumored total of eventually 6.5 million residents expected in the DC Metropolitan area by 2020, the idea that the Washington Redskins, DC United, and the Washington Mystics could all play/be on the road to playing in new arenas by 2020 makes sense. Couple that with improvements being made to the nearly 25 year old Verizon Center and decade-old Nationals Park, and there’s an exciting new population watching exciting teams in exciting venues. Overall, it’s a good time to be a fan of sports in the DC area.
There have been 52 playoff appearances by the seven aforementioned local pro sports franchises in the just over two decades since the Verizon Center significantly upped the ante for arenas and sports venues in general in the Nation’s Capitol. The 20,000 seat arena was built for roughly $150 million in 1997, and in incorporating complex electrical and mechanical systems, plus being built on top of the Gallery Place Metro stop, was considered state-of-the-art for its era. Furthermore Verizon Center was nominated for Arena of the Year Pollstar and being named the ninth highest grossing venue worldwide by 2008.
Improving upon that standard has been MLB championship-level team the Washington Nationals’ Nationals Park, a 40,000-plus seat stadium that cost $800 million to build by 2008. Nats Park is impressively the first LEED-certified green major professional sports stadium in the United States, and is similarly Metro accessible via the Navy Yard Metro stop. Notably, Nationals Park will host the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.
Insofar as forthcoming sports structures to the DC area, DC United’s Audi Field is slated to be the first to open in mid-2018. Seating 20,000 fans, it’s expected to cost $195 million to complete, and thus is best compared to the soccer equivalent of a Verizon Center/Nats Park hybrid venue. Similar to Nationals Park, it is within a stone’s throw of the Navy Yard Metro, and to keep with the state of the art theme that both the “phone booth” and Nats park have expemplified, will come complete with 31 luxury suites, a bike valet, plus on-site retail and residential space.
The WNBA’s Mystics will soon play in a 4,200 seat arena on the property site that currently hosts the Broccoli CIty Festival in Southeast DC. Tentatively slated to open in 2018, it’s expected to cost $65 million, and is expected to feature a glass-enclosed atrium and retail space that will stay open even when there’s no sporting events occurring. Also slated to be the official practice facility for the Washington Wizards, the space offers significant promise for expanding the event delivery expectation in the DC Metropolitan area.
The piece de resistance of all of this is the expectation that the Washington Redskins are expected to move into a 60,000-seat, open-air stadium by 2027. This venue that could be either in Loudon County, Virginia or on the one-time site of long-time Redskin home RFK Stadium could possibly include a moat, amphitheater, museum, and the team’s headquarters and training facilities.
Between the Wizards and Capitals exciting, yet ultimately heartbreaking playoff runs, DC United and the Mystics being perennial playoff teams, plus the Washington Redskins having one of the NFL’s most established legacies of excellence, there’s always something to cheer about in the Nation’s Capital. However, with a trio of new sports arenas opening in the next five-to-ten years, what historically have occasionally been roaring crowds at DC sports venues may be more consistently excited because of not just what the teams, but their home fields and courts, have to offer.