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Appreciating RFK Stadium

RFK Stadium

The venue is probably is not long for the world, but there’s still a devoted fanbase appreciating RFK Stadium, twice home to MLB in Washington, D.C., and a historically significant facility.

Of course, what makes it historically significant — its status as the first cookie-cutter stadium, designed both for the NFL’s Washington Redskins and the Washington Senators — isn’t highly prized these days. In fact, most ballpark purists have a very negative reaction to multiuse facilities like those once found in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But it may be a little unfair to lump RFK Stadium in with the likes of Riverfront Stadium: RFK Stadium actually worked as a multiuse stadium. When you attended a baseball game there, it really felt like a ballpark; when you attended a Redskins game there, it felt like a true football stadium. Part of that was the rail-based seat-moving system, and part of it was the undulating roofline that manages to soften the corners of the ballpark. It wasn’t a bad place to take in a game.

And it’s still not today. Basically, the only sporting event at RFK Stadium is MLS soccer, which has a devoted following in the D.C. area. But RFK Stadium is breaking down: the District hasn’t performed much maintenance at all since the departure of the Nats (and, truth be told, MLB barely made any improvements to the place when the team was there), and the 52-year-old facility is quietly rusting away, D.C. United has been openly seeking a new pitch, and the eventual departure of the MLS franchise will probably mean the end of RFK Stadium as well: the land is just too valuable to house a rarely used stadium. That’s too bad. With the right kind of TLC, RFK Stadium could end up being a showcase for American soccer: it has all the things D.C. United and MLS are looking for in a new venue (easy freeway and Metro access, lots of parking), with the advantage of history and style.

Photo from first year of Washington Nationals playing in D.C. after team moved from Montreal.

RELATED STORIES: RFK at 50: Will there be 50 more?; Are final days near for RFK Stadium?


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