The Washington Spirit, in a letter to fans by majority owner Steve Baldwin, have announced that Wednesday’s home game against the Houston Dash, which was set to be played at Segra Field in Leesburg, will instead be played in Houston.
Baldwin’s letter reads as follows:
I’m reaching out today to explain to you the circumstances regarding the switch of our May 26 match scheduled for Segra Field to BBVA Stadium in Houston. As you know, our two Challenge Cup matches were scheduled for Segra Field and were moved to Audi Field because the construction of Segra Field has not been completed. Last week, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird issued us a letter stating that the May 26 match needed to be moved to a different venue because Segra Field is not compliant with NWSL stadium requirements. We asked DC United if we could hold the May 26 game at Audi Field, an open date for the venue, and they said no. So last night Commissioner Baird made the decision to move the game to Houston.
The Washington Spirit will accept nothing less than world class facilities for players and fans, and we apologize for the burden these circumstances have caused for Spirit Nation, our players, and staff. We are very disappointed in this outcome and hope that the construction at Segra Field will be completed before our next match scheduled for the venue. We look forward to soon seeing our fans in Loudoun County and all fans who purchased a ticket for the May 26 game will receive a refund.
Segra Field, built to house D.C. United’s USL Championship affiliate Loudoun United, seats 5,000 and has been in use since 2019, and recently saw its first league match of 2021, with Loudoun falling 2-1 to New York Red Bulls II last week. Last year, the Spirit played two NWSL Fall Series games at the facility, and were scheduled to play five of their twelve regular season home games there this year.
That said, Segra Field has been under ongoing construction, with heavy equipment inside the stadium during recent Old Glory DC rugby matches hosted there this spring. Permanent locker rooms and bathrooms for fans were, as of four days ago, far from being completed:
Can someone explain to me how a PROFESSIONAL soccer team is allowed to play here in a week from today? No running water, no actual bathrooms, no actual locker rooms, little/no safe barriers between them and fans, and they're still in the middle of a construction zone. pic.twitter.com/PjvQVsskje— Jess (@_jlynn_14) May 19, 2021
An NWSL press release on the change said that “The National Women’s Soccer League announced today that due to construction delays at Segra Field, the Washington Spirit’s match against the Houston Dash on Wednesday, May 26, will now be played at BBVA Stadium.”
Baldwin’s letter includes a statement that Washington asked D.C. United if they could move the game to Audi Field. That would not have been a first in 2021, as the Spirit played a preseason game behind closed doors there, and also changed their two Challenge Cup home games from Leesburg to the District earlier this year.
D.C. United supplied the following statement to Black and Red United, including a note that they had agreed to move the game to Audi Field:
Segra Field officials have been working diligently to prepare the stadium for the Washington Spirit’s upcoming National Women’s Soccer League regular season home game against the Houston Dash, scheduled for May 26.
The stadium, which has already hosted both United Soccer League and Major League Rugby games this season, was on track to comply with all NWSL Stadium Standards, despite a construction timeline severely hampered by the global pandemic.
We agreed to move the game to Audi Field upon receipt of a request from the Spirit.
We are disappointed at the decision to move the game to Houston, we look forward to welcoming the Washington Spirit and their fans back to Segra Field on July 2 and for years to come.
A possible issue blocking the move is a scheduled Sweat DC fitness class set for Wednesday at 6:30pm at Audi Field:
While it is unclear what this means for the rest of the Spirit’s schedule, the Washington Post’s Steven Goff has reported that the Spirit and Dash will simply play unbalanced schedules, with Washington apparently only getting 11 home games this season while the Dash get 13 as a result of the change.
Goff added that sources have told him that United was ready to allow the game to take place at Audi Field, but wanted some unspecified further commitment to playing games at Segra Field out of the Spirit in exchange:
Spirit owner Steve Baldwin says team asked DCU to move the game to Audi Field and was turned down. Sources close to DCU says DCU did agree to the change, if Spirit commits to Segra when renovations are done.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 23, 2021
In the meantime, the Spirit will prepare for what will now be four straight games on the road to open the season. After returning from Louisville following Friday’s 2-0 loss, Washington will depart for Houston to play the Dash Wednesday night, and then have another game against OL Reign in Tacoma on May 30. The Spirit’s first official regular season home game will now be June 6, when they host the Orlando Pride at Audi Field.