D.C. United’s safe standing section dream to get realized!



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Audi Field - DC United Image: DC United

The American professional soccer club based in Washington, D.C., in the US – D.C. United – has put forward a plan to introduce safe-standing areas (a long- cherished dream one may say) at its home ground and soccer-specific stadium Audi Field ahead of the 2020 MLS season. It will be a notable renovation for the venue and is currently underway.

Media reports stated that the Major League Soccer franchise will expend close to $1m (£769,000/€902,000) to put in place safe-standing railings (two of them) in Sections 136 and 137 located on the north end of the 20,000-seat stadium, which opened its doors in 2018. These two stands will receive waist-high railings.

Earlier, fans used to view these sections as potentially unsafe, particularly on rainy days when the surface was slippery and there was nothing to hold on to. Now, the scenario will change for some 2,000 spectators.

Audi Field was originally designed sans safe-standing sections – which have become an increasingly popular feature at MLS stadiums in recent years. That detail is changing this offseason.

The railings are expected to be installed by the end of January ahead of United’s first match of the season against Colorado Rapids on February 29. The areas will also remain during games played by the D.C. Defenders XFL American football team (another professional American football team also based in Washington, D.C.

“It truly should have been done in the original design. Our supporters have asked us for it, and we needed to get it done,” observed the club’s Chief Business Officer, Andy Bush.

James Lambert, President of United’s Screaming Eagles fan group, maintained that safe standing has been the “number one priority” for supporters since Audi Field went on stream.

Lambert added on safe standing, “It’s vital to the experience of the game and being able to grow the game in the United States by creating a better atmosphere throughout the stadiums. It’s what makes us different than other US sports leagues.”

Fellow MLS team the New York Red Bulls announced plans in December 2019 to introduce a safe-standing area at Red Bull Arena at New Jersey in US. The Red Bulls join the likes of Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles FC in launching a rail-seating system.

Red Bulls are reportedly struggling to fill their arena on a regular basis. To improve the ambience, the club decided to put in place rail seating across Sections 133, 101 and 102 (lower south stand). For fans from the Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club it has also been a long-anticipated change at Red Bull Arena.

Fans are pleased over the whole development of adding safe-standing sections, and the club is also pretty enthusiastic about the project. In fact, safe standing areas were on top of the spectators’ wish list.

Audi Field is not a stadium of the league over which fans will swoon over but it makes the most of a very tight and constrained plot.

When the stadium went on stream, there was no love lost between United and the most vibrant supporters. Part of the fan base was protesting changes in policies that favored one ultra group over others. Over time, fences were mended and now the club is finally moving towards their ultimate dream and what all groups had been asking for: Safe standing.

Nearly all announced new stadia in MLS also feature a form of safe standing. This includes FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew, Inter Miami and Austin FC, while further announcements may make the list longer.

Safe standing sections are meant for fans who intend to stand during the entire duration of the match.

Earlier this month, D.C. United extended its jersey sponsorship deal with Government contractor Leidos through the 2021 season. The team is also reportedly holding parleys with leading gaming and casino operator Caesars Entertainment on opening a sportsbook at Audi Field this year. A field-level area is currently being converted into a restaurant and bar, which will contain the sportsbook.

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