RFK Stadium is falling down, but what happens next to the former home of the Washington Senators and the Washington Nationals is anyone’s guess, as it will take lots of money to fix it up when there’s no obvious financial payout or an Act of Congress — literally — to tear it down.
RFK Stadium isn’t quite an institution in a town full of them, as every professional-sports inhabitant in the last 20 years have worked hard to flee its unfriendly confines. Two MLB teams and an NFL team moved out, and the only full-time tenant in the stadium, MLS’s DC United, has been working for years on an alternate stadium plan. Today, DC United calls RFK Stadium home only because it has no other place to call home.
The underlying issue: once DC United bails, it will be hard to find an alternative use for the stadium, which opened in 1962 as D.C. Stadium with the “new” Senators and the NFL’s Washington Redskins as the prime tenants. Later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium after the slain attorney general, U.S. senator and presidential nominee, RFK Stadium rocked as the home of the Washington Redskins for the George Allen and Joe Gibbs eras.
Today, the facility holds some secondary events and festivals, but nothing particularly unique to the facility. It does have some sentimental power: it’s the only major memorial to Kennedy in the D.C. area, and there surely will those opposing any demolition because of this sentimental value. It is, architecturally speaking, one of the most interesting venues of its era, a multiuse facility that actually worked as a multiuse facility thanks to a unique undulating layout and a track-based system that allowed smooth reconfiguration for both baseball and football. (It is also the last major sports facility totally designed by Osborn Engineering, the Cleveland firm that designed most of the great old ballparks of the past.) But with the place literally falling down — as documented in this Washington Post article — at some point serious money will need to be spend on crumbling concrete and decaying stadium infrastructure, and it’s then the future of RFK Stadium will be seriously discussed.
Photo from first year of Washington Nationals playing in D.C. after team moved from Montreal.
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