RFK Stadium is now home to D.C. United, the city’s Major League Soccer team. In its 52-year history, the stadium has played host to football, baseball and soccer games, as well as some notable musical acts such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Not everyone, even at the City Paper, is so enamored. Mike Madden, in the publication’s 2013 Best of D.C. edition, wrote the entry for “Best Place for Stadium Envy,” proclaiming, “RFK has plenty of charm, but every now and then, a fan can dream of something nicer. In the case of United fans, ‘every now and then’ works out to ‘just about every match.’”
D.C. United is negotiating for a new soccer-specific stadium elsewhere in the city. That would certainly entail a smaller venue, probably around the area of RFK’s official 19,647 cap for Major League Soccer games, when the upper deck is sealed off. RFK could conceivably still host bigger soccer matches after United eventually departs.
The U.S.-Germany match this month, brimming as it was, didn’t come close to the largest RFK crowd. On Dec. 22, 1996, 65,454 watched the Washington Redskins beat their archrival Dallas Cowboys, 37-10, in the ’Skins last game at RFK.
Football hasn’t left entirely. On Dec. 20, 2008, the stadium hosted the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, the first college bowl game that Washington ever hosted, when Wake Forest University beat the Naval Academy, 29-19. That bowl, since rechristened the Military Bowl, was held at RFK through last year and has since relocated to Navy’s Annapolis, Md., stadium.
Football still has a toe-hold, though. In 2011, the inaugural AT&T Nation’s Football Classic debuted at RFK, with Howard University and Morehouse College restarting their rivalry in a game Howard won, 30-27. The game is held now every September.
The stadium can be a busy place, particularly in the spring and summer, with D.C. United playing, a series of foot races, such as last week’s Run or Dye 5K, a farmer’s market every Thursday and Saturday and May’s DC101 Chili Cook-Off.
“The campus is still active, and we’re working to keep it active,” said Teri Washington, the communications director for Events DC, the quasi-public organization that coordinates activities at RFK and other public venues in the city.
Planning and Zoning
There is little consensus on what the RFK grounds will look like in the years ahead, particularly the vast tracts around it owned by the federal government. While D.C. United is its prime tenant, others, such as the Metropolitan Police Department’s Special Operations Division (which relocated to the stadium in November), give the place a hodgepodge feel.
In the D.C. Office of Planning’s most recent Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2005 and 2006 and amended in 2011, the city said more needed to be done to make the area fit into the growing city.
“The community needs to be better connected to the Anacostia River, with its vast open spaces and waterfront amenities. As Reservation 13 is redeveloped and as the future of the RFK Stadium complex is debated, opportunities for new large parks serving Capitol Hill should be recognized,” the plan states.
It adds that all interested parties, “the National Capitol Planning Commission, the National Park Service, the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, residents, and neighborhood groups” should “actively participate” in developing long-range plans.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.