Remember where you were when you heard you’d already made your last matchday drive to Segra Field? We do! We were mindlessly scrolling our timelines — you know, living life as one does in 2022 — when suddenly a tweet plopped on our timeline. The two checkmark official official Washington Spirit account (thanks Elon, made all this so much clearer way to go) posted that starting in 2023, every single Spirit home game will be at Audi Field in Washington, DC.
For those of us with trust issues, we understand, so here’s the tweet with all its proper marking of officialness.
As far as non-player news, this is as big of an announcement as the Spirit could make. Previous ownership moved the team from Maryland Soccerplex in order to get more games at Audi Field, but that meant games at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA. Unfortunately, Segra is not only far away from Washington, DC even without traffic — and a nightmare with — it wasn’t a very good venue. From the size to the crude locker rooms to a playing surface that was hated by everyone in the league, including Spirit players.
However, due to Steve Baldwin’s late decision to sell the team to Y. Michele Kang, this is Kang’s first real offseason, and there has been a lot to do. Currently the team has thirteen players under contract, including just two defenders, and before the signing of Mark Parsons, needed a head coach. Though certainly not ideal, it would have been understandable if the Spirit front office was unable to wriggle out of Segra commitments to make Audi the permanent home.
Thankfully we do not have to live in that world.
There hasn’t been much reported on how exactly the deal got done, in fact The Washington Post story on the news noted ‘The teams [D.C. United and Washington Spirit] did not want to comment.’
Despite this, when the Spirit confirmed the news they also dropped a press release, in which some talking was done.
“The opportunity to play all our home games at Audi Field shows the continued commitment Michele has made to making this club the best. The state-of-the-art Audi Field will allow our athletes to perform at the highest level and produce the best results possible. It is one of the best professional soccer stadiums in the country and it is where our club belongs. We are looking to dominate in the District.” -Mark Krikorian, President of Soccer Operations; source: Washington Spirit
In addition to Krikorian’s comments, we also heard from new President of Soccer Operations Emma May, who was hired in September but officially started in late November.
“We will have a dynamic product on the pitch and our in-stadium fan experience will be second to none. We are adding new benefits for season ticket members, more pre-match activities and elevated match presentations just to name a few.” -Emma May, President of Business Operations; course: Washington Spirit
While the Spirit are moving all of their matchdays to Washington, DC, they are not vacating the Leesburg are altogether. The release notes that the team will continue to train at the United Performance Center in Leesburg, and will participate in community and special events in the area.
However, the decision to move to Audi has been much discussed among Spirit supporters, and even league wide. With expansion teams with large followings a nice stadiums, plus Kansas City building their own NWSL-specific stadium set to be opened in 2024, it was imperative to remove the obstacle of trying to convince free agents, international talent or even potential draft picks on Segra Field.
Since even before taking over, we have heard Y. Michele Kang’s ambitions to make the Spirit a top women’s club around the world. With the hiring of Mark Krikorian and Emma May on the operations side, and Dawn Scott and Mark Parsons on the player performance side, Kang has been aggressive in establishing a quality infrastructure that had been missing. Moving full-time to a professional stadium was a must
“On behalf of all our players, staff and investors, I want to thank our fans who have steadfastly supported the club through highs and lows, especially those who came to Segra in the last three years. Moving all our games to Audi will allow us to build a truly Premier, Professional and Proudly DC women’s soccer team.
I also would like to thank Jason Levien, Stephen Kaplan and the D.C. United leadership group led by Danita Johnson. The opportunity to invest in the team and our fans would not have been possible without their support.” -Y. Michele Kang, Owner; source: Washington Spirit
Now, with the same vigor, aggression and dedication, let’s fill out that roster.
As our blogfather Jason Anderson noted, on the pitch this move is particularly terrific news for Ashley Hatch, who loves an Audi Field goal. In case you’re more a visual person, the Spirit compiled this handy reel about all the fun you can expect at Audi in 2023: