This has been a quiet off-season for D.C. United stadium news. Despite the lack of an announcement that a new stadium deal is complete, there seems to be cautious optimism among the D.C. United fan base that such an announcement will occur in the near future.
When that announcement is made, many of us will likely have the following reactions:
- Where will it be?
- When will it open?
- What will it cost?
- What will it be like?
Those last two questions are interesting because they are interlinked. The amount of money D.C. United is willing to spend on a new stadium tells us something about what that stadium will be like. We can figure this out by comparing the cost of the new D.C. United stadium to the cost of other soccer-specific stadiums in Major League Soccer. Making this comparison, of course, won't tell us anything about the final look and specific features of the new D.C. United stadium, which will be the result of innumerable decisions by the team, the architects, the builders, and the city. The comparison will, however, tell us whether the new D.C. United stadium will be in the ballpark (pun intended) of Crew Stadium on one end of the spectrum or LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on the other, or somewhere in between.
Let's start with the conclusion right up front.
1. If reports are accurate, D.C. United appears poised to build one of the nicest soccer-specific stadiums in the United States. The table below shows the estimated cost to build the soccer-specific stadiums already in MLS in Washington, DC. Said another way, the table below answers the question, "How much would it cost to build each soccer-specific stadium already in MLS right here in Washington, DC, in Jan. 2013?" I've not included the soccer-specific stadiums in Canada to avoid exchange rate issues. I've also only included stadiums that were purpose-built as soccer-specific stadiums, and not stadiums that were modified from some previous purpose like JELD-WEN Field in Portland. I'll explain where these estimates come from further down the post, but the table is ordered based on the least expensive stadium to build in Washington, DC, to the most expensive, rounded to the nearest million.
|Stadium||Team||2013 Cost in Washington DC (rounded)|
|Crew Stadium||Columbus Crew||$49,000,000|
|Toyota Park||Chicago Fire||$100,000,000|
|BBVA Compass Stadium||Houston Dynamo||$109,000,000|
|PPL Park||Philadelphia Union||$111,000,000|
|Home Depot Center||LA Galaxy/Chivas USA||$118,000,000|
|FC Dallas Stadium||FC Dallas||$132,000,000|
|Rio Tinto Stadium||Real Salt Lake||$135,000,000|
|Dick's Sporting Goods Park||Colorado Rapids||$159,000,000|
|Red Bull Arena||New York Red Bulls||$186,000,000|
|LIVESTRONG Sporting Park||Sporting Kansas City||$207,000,000|
So, if reports from this past spring are accurate that D.C. United is planning to spend $157M on its new stadium, it will be able to build one of the nicest soccer-specific stadiums in the United States.
Where do these cost estimates come from?
2. We start with the "headline" cost of each MLS soccer-specific stadium in the US. The "headline" cost is the publicly declared cost of the stadium at the time it was built. In some cases, the headline cost for certain stadiums includes more than just the stadium (for example, some teams built surrounding soccer complexes near their stadiums). Wherever possible, however, we've tried to find the cost of the stadium itself. The table below is rank ordered based on the year the stadium opened.
|Stadium||Team||Location||Year Opened||Original Headline Cost|
|Crew Stadium||Columbus Crew||Columbus, OH||1999||$28,500,000|
|Home Depot Center||LA Galaxy/Chivas USA||Carson, CA||2003||$87,000,000|
|FC Dallas Stadium||FC Dallas||Frisco, TX||2005||$80,000,000|
|Toyota Park||Chicago Fire||Bridgeview, IL||2006||$98,000,000|
|Dick's Sporting Goods Park||Colorado Rapids||Commerce City, CO||2007||$131,000,000|
|Rio Tinto Stadium||Real Salt Lake||Sandy, UT||2008||$110,000,000|
|PPL Park||Philadelphia Union||Chester, PA||2010||$120,000,000|
|Red Bull Arena||New York Red Bulls||Harrison, NJ||2010||$200,000,000|
|LIVESTRONG Sporting Park||Sporting Kansas City||Kansas City, KS||2011||$200,000,000|
|BBVA Compass Stadium||Houston Dynamo||Houston, TX||2012||$95,000,000|
3. Next, we've estimated what it would cost to rebuild each stadium in its current city as of January, 2013. Because the cost of construction increases almost every year, we have to estimate what it would cost to rebuild each of these stadiums in its current location in Jan. 2013. Using data available in one of the construction industry's standards, RSMeans Building Construction Cost Data 2013, we can estimate what it would cost to rebuild these stadiums today using the "Historical Cost Index" which tells us how construction costs have varied from year to year across the country. For example, from 1999 until 2013, the Historical Cost Index rose from 117.6 to 197.6, a 68% increase. The table below remains rank ordered by the date the stadiums originally opened.
|Stadium||Year Opened||Original Headline Cost||Historical Cost Index||2013 Cost in Current City (rounded)|
|Home Depot Center||2003||$87,000,000||132.0||$130,000,000|
|FC Dallas Stadium||2005||$80,000,000||151.6||$104,000,000|
|Dick's Sporting Goods Park||2007||$131,000,000||169.4||$153,000,000|
|Rio Tinto Stadium||2008||$110,000,000||180.4||$120,000,000|
|Red Bull Arena||2010||$200,000,000||183.5||$215,000,000|
|LIVESTRONG Sporting Park||2011||$200,000,000||191.2||$207,000,000|
|BBVA Compass Stadium||2012||$95,000,000||194.6||$96,000,000|
|2013 Historical Cost Index (est)||197.6|
4. Finally, we can estimate the cost to rebuild each stadium in Washington, DC. Again, using data from RSMeans, we can compare construction costs across hundreds of cities in the United States. Using the Construction Cost Index for each city where a stadium is located (or using the nearest city with a Construction Cost Index), we can estimate how much each stadium would cost to build today in Washington, DC. A Construction Cost Index of 100 represents the national average for construction costs. Index values greater than 100 mean construction costs in that city are greater than the national average, while index values less than 100 represent construction costs less than the national average. For example, if we compare the highest cost city for construction in the table below (Chicago at 116.5) to the lowest cost city (Frisco/Dallas at 77), we can determine that the cost of construction in Chicago is on average 51% more expensive than in Frisco/Dallas.
The table below is rank ordered based on the cost to build each stadium in Washington, DC, in Jan. 2013.
|Stadium||Location||2013 Cost in Current City (rounded)||Construction Cost Index||2013 Cost in Washington DC (rounded)|
|Crew Stadium||Columbus, OH||$48,000,000||94.8||$49,000,000|
|Toyota Park||Bridgeview, IL||$120,000,000||116.5||$100,000,000|
|BBVA Compass Stadium||Houston, TX||$96,000,000||86.5||$109,000,000|
|PPL Park||Chester, PA||$129,000,000||113.7||$111,000,000|
|Home Depot Center||Carson, CA||$130,000,000||107.2||$118,000,000|
|FC Dallas Stadium||Frisco, TX||$104,000,000||77.0||$132,000,000|
|Rio Tinto Stadium||Sandy, UT||$120,000,000||86.7||$135,000,000|
|Dick's Sporting Goods Park||Commerce City, CO||$153,000,000||93.6||$159,000,000|
|Red Bull Arena||Harrison, NJ||$215,000,000||112.4||$186,000,000|
|LIVESTRONG Sporting Park||Kansas City, KS||$207,000,000||97.2||$207,000,000|
|Washington DC Cost Index||97.3|
One factor that is favorable for D.C. United is that construction costs on average in Washington, DC, are 2.7% below the national average. Compare that to costs in Philadelphia (13.7% above the national average), Chicago (16.5% above), and suburban New Jersey (12.4% above), and D.C. United has the opportunity to make its stadium dollars go a long way. By the way, the construction cost index in New York City is approximately 132! The new owners of NY2, the proposed MLS expansion team in Queens, are going to pay a huge premium for their stadium based on that location.
5. The longer it takes for D.C. United to lock in a deal, the less their reported $157M will buy. That's an obvious statement, but with construction costs having risen on average 68% over the last 14 years since the first soccer-specific stadium was opened in MLS, time is of the essence unless the owners are willing to dig deeper in their pocket.
Let's hope an announcement on a new D.C. United stadium comes soon. No matter what the owners spend on it (within reason), it will be ours, and it will be great. With that said, however, it's tremendous to see that the owners are reportedly planning to spend an amount that will make the new D.C. United stadium among the best in MLS.
For those interested in the numbers, I've uploaded the spreadsheet here (MLS Stadium Cost Comparison).
What are the questions you want answered about a new D.C. United stadium? What will be your reaction when the announcement finally comes?