With a tentative deal in place for a new DC United stadium near Nationals Park, the future of historic RFK Stadium is muddled — at best.
MLS’s DC United, of course, is the last remaining tenant of RFK Stadium. The proposed $300-million project calls for a new stadium near Nationals Park in the Buzzard Point area of the District (basically, on the west side of South Capitol Street), with the team paying half and the District picking up the rest. It’s pitched as an economic-development play for the city, similar to the Verizon Center investment that revitalized another part of the District. The District would acquire the land; DC United would build the stadium and retain development rights.
The deal is not final: there are some complicated land-acquisition issues still be worked out, and you never know what will happen in the arcane world of DC politics. Still, all sides are confident enough of a deal that an announcement was made yesterday.
So where does this leave RFK Stadium?
RFK Stadium, which opened in October 1961 as home of the Washington Senators and the Washington Redskins (NFL), was the first true multipurpose sports facility, designed with sections of retractable seating set on rails and an undulating form never quite matched in any subsequent ballpark. It’s a sad sight these days: despite the Washington Nationals playing there before the Nationals Park opening, the District has put minimal money into maintenance. It’s hard to see a scenario where the stadium is standing a decade from now: there’s simply no use out there for a 50,000-seat stadium, and the land underneath it — including the expansive parking lots — will surely catch the eye of a developer who wants easy freeway access and a convenient location. Or, perhaps, Dan Snyder will consider a move of the Redskins back into the District: there’s always talk of the NFL returning to a new stadium at the RFK Stadium site.
Top two renderings courtesy HKS. Photo from first year of Washington Nationals playing in D.C. after team moved from Montreal.
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