Comparing D.C. United's Proposed Stadium to Other MLS Soccer-Specific Stadiums

How will D.C. United's new stadium compare to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park? - Jamie Squire

Reports say that D.C. United is willing to spend $157M on a new stadium in the District. Let's look at how this will stack up against other soccer-specific stadiums in Major League Soccer.

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:

- Finally!

- 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)
Crew Stadium 1999 $28,500,000 117.6 $48,000,000
Home Depot Center 2003 $87,000,000 132.0 $130,000,000
FC Dallas Stadium 2005 $80,000,000 151.6 $104,000,000
Toyota Park 2006 $98,000,000 162.0 $120,000,000
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
PPL Park 2010 $120,000,000 183.5 $129,000,000
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?

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