Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A 2014 Walk to the Proposed New DCU Stadium at Buzzard Point

Map of Walk to the Location of the Proposed DC United Stadium in 2014
(Photo: Google Map Modified by Doug Barnes)
The future is always hard to predict. This 2014 fictional narrative was an attempt to imagine how a new DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point would be experienced by fans. We got much of this imagined walk wrong but the point was to illustrate that the walk from DC Metro stations to the new stadium would not be an obstacle to the stadium location. Read on and see how close we come to the actual 2018 and onwards DC United game experience.

The actual 2014 walk was not as exciting as the imagined one (see the video in the last section). In reality, we strolled by quiet fields, a noisy junkyard, and a dusty cement mixing business. But the walk made a strong point. A DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point would be a very fan-friendly location. The video of the actual walk was circulated to the City Council, and afterward, no one doubted the viability of Buzzard point as a location for the new stadium. 

A Future Walk to the DCU Stadium at Buzzard Point

by David Rusk and Doug Barnes

July 30, 2014

Blinking in the July afternoon sunlight, we emerge from the Navy Yard-Ballpark-Buzzard Point Metro station. We join the DC United supporters groups and other fans assembling at the top of Half Street, SE. An hour before the 3 pm match time (a rare afternoon match to accommodate national TV) the black-and-red crowd swells to several thousand, filling closed-to-traffic Half Street from sidewalk to sidewalk.

With a signal from head capo Donald Wine, we begin the March to the Match down Half Street, stepping in unison with the thumping drumbeat of Salvatore. Our numbers swell as DC United fans spill out of the sports bars and plaza of Akridge’s new mixed-use development on the west side of Half Street.

Right at the entrance to Nationals Park, we pivot to the right onto the closed-off N Street, SE. We are joined by DC United fans pouring out of the Nationals parking garages along the same street. On this and many game days, there are no overlaps between the two sports. The Nationals parking garages are no farther from Buzzard Point than Lot 8 from RFK. But who would want to pass up the opportunity for a good-natured ribbing of the erstwhile "National Pastime"? The marchers in a sense are an advertisement to supporters of America's game to come over to the world's most popular international sport.

We march down South Capitol Street from N Street, SE to Q Street, SE. The extra-wide sidewalk designed for large crowds of baseball fans next to Nationals Park is now used by soccer supporters. Across the wide traffic corridor, middle-class residents come out of their townhouses to wave at us. We add color to the community and are far enough away to not create a nuisance. As we reach Q Street we look upon the newly refurbished Frederick Douglass Bridge with its pedestrian-friendly traffic loop located at the junction of South Capitol Street and the ramp up to the bridge over the Anacostia River.

Marchers are split into big segments as DC police stop traffic to waive us across South Capitol (similar to the drill we previously used to go from Stadium-Armory Metro Station and Lot 3 to RFK). A much better solution would be a pedestrian/bicycle bridge to take fans over the busy street to the brand new stadium just visible in the distance. On this day we re-form on the far side of the new traffic loop and march down a short half-block of Potomac Avenue SW. Redevelopment of the area is sure to come, but we are still walking between tall piles of sand stockpiled by the DC Highway Department on our left and a low-slung industrial building on our right.

We arrive at The Promised Land, the sparkling new DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point, located at the junction of Potomac Avenue, R Street, and 1st Street SW. DCU wisely re-created the Lot 8 experience (without the parked cars) in a grass and brick path park-like area in front of a future hotel to serve both the soccer and baseball stadiums, part of the overall site’s "ancillary development."

The Screaming Eagles are just closing down their tailgate line. We look towards the river and the area is dotted by low-rise commercial property with plenty of open space to mimic a town square. Right along the river is the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail connecting the Nationals Park and beyond and with the renewed Maine Avenue area. The city is finally embracing the Anacostia River as a local treasure.

After another half-block along R Street, SW, we arrive at the entrance to the already legendary DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point. We have traveled a total distance from the Metro stop to the DCU stadium entrance: seven blocks, 13 minutes, 0.7 miles, which is just a bit further than the 0.3+ miles distance from the Stadium-Armory Metro Station to RFK’s main entrance. DC United is still using the area’s historic and unforgettable name Buzzard Point in the stadium name, but the team may not be able to resist the money for naming rights much longer with the anticipated signings of new designated players.

The match is loud and boisterous. The home team wins 3-0, dominating NYCFC, who with its big-spending and big-city airs is no match for a unified DC community. The evidence is a convergence of fans from Virginia and Maryland into a sparkling new stadium, joining those living in the vibrant international community that is Washington DC.

To avoid some of the post-match congestion, with fans heading to local bars and restaurants in the redeveloped areas, we decide to head straight home via the Waterfront Metro Station at 4th and M, SW. Walking out the Buzzard Point main gate, we turn left on R Street for a half-block, cross a quiet 2nd Street, SW to the sidewalk on the far side.

Then we walk two blocks to P Street alongside the National Defense University and Ft. Leslie McNair on our left. Along the right-hand side of 2nd street is a block of industrial properties, a row of townhouses, and the well-maintained Syphax Gardens public housing complex.

Turning left on P Street, we walk two blocks to 4th Street under a perfect canopy of old elms with Fort McNair on our left and increasingly up-scale townhouses and apartment towers of redeveloped Southwest on our right. We make a right-hand turn on 4th Street and walk the three tree-shaded blocks to the Waterfront Metro Station. Along the way, we glimpse the sight of the Arena Stage. The total distance to the Metro stop is eight blocks or about 0.8 miles and took 15 ½ minutes. This is at the slow pace of over two above sixty-somethings.

Is this a fantasy? The new DC United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point hasn’t been built yet and the Akridge mixed-use complex on Half Street, SE is yet to be started. But this description is of an actual walk by two DC United supporters. As we plodded past the vacant lots and nondescript industries located on the future site of the DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point, we could hear the future shouts of DC United supporters echoing in our ears.

Walk to Buzzard Point from the Metro with this video

By Adam Taylor

Editor, Black and Red United
August 2014

Preface: David Rusk and Doug Barnes walked from the Metro to Buzzard Point and back again, to show it could be done. They made a video about it. The video prompted a rather long comment by Adam Taylor, one of the Editors of the Black and Red United. Below is his take on the stadium walk by David Rusk and Doug Barnes.

Much has been made about the supposed isolation of Buzzard Point. Many gallons of virtual ink have been spilled over the great distance between Metro and the proposed D.C. United stadium. So two of our readers - David Rusk and Doug Barnes - got together to make the walk themselves. For our benefit, they filmed their experience, and you can watch it below.

Our heroes begin their journey taking Metrorail to Navy Yard, exiting at Half and M Streets, SE, near Nationals Park. They make the 0.6-mile walk to the nearest corner of the soccer stadium site in under 15 minutes. The time, it should be noted, is extra generous, as Messrs. Rusk and Barnes, spry as they are, are no spring chickens; each of our heroes is over 60. After touring the industrial "highlights" of Buzzard Point, David and Doug make the 0.8-mile walk to Waterfront station at 4th and M Streets, SW, in under 17 minutes.

Yes, the stadium site is farther from Metro than Verizon Center or Nationals Park, but it is no FedEx Field, either. A soccer stadium will be easily walkable from two different stations and will not be surrounded by acres of parking. Much of the walk between Buzzard Point and both of the closest Metro stations already has more than adequate sidewalks for crowds, and the city's transportation planners have already begun planning for the areas that don't (those closest to the stadium footprint). Add in the inevitable public safety presence before, during, and after events at the stadium, and the walk to and from Metro will be entirely manageable and safe.

Of course, additional transportation infrastructure would benefit the stadium project and the city at large, but based on the experience of these two gentlemen, additional transit to Buzzard Point is not a prerequisite for the stadium.

Huge thanks to David Rusk and Doug Barnes, who made the video above in addition to having written some of the most intelligent commentaries on the stadium debate, publishing much of it here on Black and Red United.

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