RFK Stadium set for demolition

RFK Stadium, whose famous atmosphere spurred the Washington Redskins on to three Super Bowl triumphs in the 1980s and early 1990s, is to be demolished.

The stadium hosted the NFL American football franchise from when it opened in 1961 through to 1996, along with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams the Washington Senators and Nationals from 1962 to 1971 and 2005 to 2007, respectively, and Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit D.C. United from 1996 to 2017.

RFK Stadium was also a major concert venue, but has mainly lain dormant since United’s departure to its Audi Field home and has been the subject of reports concerning its future in recent months. It has now been announced that Events DC, the District of Columbia agency that manages the 47,000-seat venue, is seeking bids by October 25 from contractors to demolish the stadium.

Demolition is intended to be completed by 2021, with the move seen as a cost-saving measure as RFK currently costs the city $2m (£1.6m/€1.8m) per year for maintenance, landscaping, pest control, security and other services, along with a further $1.5m for utility costs. “We don’t want to throw money after a resource that’s exceeded its useful life,” Events DC President Gregory O’Dell said, according to the Washington Post newspaper.

O’Dell added that RFK’s demolition will also make it easier for the District to move forward with proposals to develop a $500m recreational and event space for residents and tourists. However, officials have played down claims that the demolition could lead to the Redskins returning to play at a new stadium built on the existing site.

The Redskins moved to the 82,000-seat FedExField, five miles east of Washington D.C. in the state of Maryland, in 1997. Former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke developed FedExField largely out of his own pocket, but current owner Daniel Snyder is said to be keen to exit a lease that is due to expire in 2027 and develop a new 60,000-seat stadium on the site of the team’s former home.

John Falcicchio, chief of staff to Mayor Muriel Bowser, told the Post that the District has had “no substantive conversations” with the team about a new stadium in 13 months. Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said the team only had one comment on yesterday’s (Thursday’s) news: “We support the mayor’s decision.”

The return of the Redskins would require the District to secure control of the land on which RFK is situated, which it currently leases from the federal government. In March, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives, introduced a bill to sell the RFK site to the District of Columbia for “fair market value”. However, that legislation has not progressed.

The Post notes that the return of the Redskins would be controversial. Some members of Congress and the D.C. Council object to the team’s name, which has been at the centre of a long-running dispute claiming it represents ethnic stereotyping. There are also fears that tax dollars could be used for the development of a new stadium.

“I’m glad to see it’s going to come down – I just want to make sure it doesn’t go back up,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen, whose district borders the RFK site. “This is a place where we need to extend our city, not build a stadium for a billionaire.”

O’Dell said a new professional football stadium was one of three possible long-term uses for the site, along with an indoor sports arena or green space, but added the city is currently not looking at these options. O’Dell said: “We are not working on any of those long-term options right now, nor have we talked to the Redskins about that or any of this demolition effort.”

Image: Events DC