At 50 years old, RFK Stadium — the first major multiuse facility to open in the 1960s as the home of the Washington Senators — may not live to see another 50, as District of Columbia officials debate its future.
The facility is home to MLS’s DC United and was home to the Washington Nationals before Nationals Park opened. It occupies some 190 acres of prime real estate near Capitol Hill and sports plenty of Metro and freeway access, and while it’s certainly an underused facility, there’s no clear plan for its future. At one point there was talk of renovating it for MLB before Nationals Park emerged, and more recently there’s been talk of building a new Washington Redskins stadium there. (That would be complicated for many reasons: the feds own the land, the Redskins are tied into a long-term FedEx Field lease, and D.C. is not exactly swimming in cash.)
Inertia may end up saving the facility: with no clear plan for its future, there will be no calls for its demolition. In this Washington Post article, five experts opine on what they’d like to see at the stadium site, but nothing really pops out. There’s a current plan to attract alt sports to the area, and to be blunt DC United has been stupid in looking for suburban facility and not focusing on what could be done to convert RFK Stadium to a first-class soccer facility — like downsizing it, converting some upper-deck seating to party areas, and embracing the demographics who show up for MLS.
Truth is, RFK Stadium isn’t a bad venue, and may have been the best of the 1960s-era multipurpose stadia that are pretty much all gone (Veterans Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium). It worked well for football and was more than adequate for baseball, and the undulating design of the grandstand certainly make it stand out. And fans outside the Washington area don’t realize the building’s historical significance: it’s the only major national building named for former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, a name that still resonates in our nation’s capital.
Photo from first year of Washington Nationals playing in D.C. after team moved from Montreal.
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