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The Washington Times
For the past three-and-a-half years, D.C. United fans have referred to their team's future home as "Buzzard Point" - a moniker given to a swath of undeveloped land at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
Now, with the Major League Soccer team poised to secure final approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission on Thursday, the United faithful have an official name for their soccer-specific stadium: Audi Field.
United announced Wednesday that Audi of America will be the naming partner for the club's 20,000-seat venue, scheduled to open in mid-2018.
"We are thrilled to partner with such an incredible brand that is not only recognized in North America but throughout the world," United co-owner Jason Levien said. "Audi has transcended the automobile industry and fully embraced the culture of soccer, especially in MLS. We couldn't think of a better partner to name our stadium and we look forward to forging extraordinary memories for years to come at Audi Field."
The team did not share financial details on the sponsorship, but Sports Business Journal, a sports news website, called the deal one of the most lucrative in the MLS.
According to the SBJ report, which cited unnamed sources, the United-Audi deal runs for more than 10 years and will cost Audi about $4 million annually.
Audi already partners with MLS, sponsoring an index that ranks players based on advanced statistics. Audi's parent company, Volkswagen, served as United's jersey sponsor from 2008 to 2013.
With MLS annually kicking off in March, United expects to play exclusively on the road in the opening months of 2018 before christening Audi Field in the late spring or early summer.
"We are excited to work with D.C. United and to continue our commitment to soccer in America as well as here in our own backyard," said Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing at Audi of America. "This commitment allows Audi to connect with passionate soccer enthusiasts of all ages and the greater community through unique experiences that further elevate their excitement in America's fastest growing sport."
The Buzzard Point proposal was announced by then-Mayor Vincent C. Gray in July 2013, and the D.C. Council unanimously passed legislation for the stadium in December 2014. The city was authorized to pay roughly $139 million on land acquisition and preparation, while United expects to spend more than $150 million on construction.
United will kick off its final season at RFK Stadium, where the team has played since its inception in 1996, with a match against Sporting Kansas City on March 4. The club has dealt with waning attendance over the past decade at the crumbling, 56-year-old stadium, which is too large for the team's purposes and lacking in modern amenities.
Although United loses $7 million to $10 million per year while paying rent at RFK Stadium, the club will control Audi Field. The venue also will boost monetization by featuring 31 luxury suites, as well as 500,000 square feet of mixed-use retail and residential space.
Pending final approval Thursday, United hopes to break ground on Audi Field - located less than a mile from Nationals Park - in the coming weeks.
"We enthusiastically welcome Audi of America to their new home in the District of Columbia," Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "With a globally recognized brand putting their stamp on the new D.C. United stadium, we move that much closer to more jobs and economic opportunity along the Anacostia - and further cement our status as the nation's sports capital."
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