Evans Floats New Venue at RFK Site

Posted October 17, 2007 at 6:12pm

Now that the Washington Nationals are prepared to leave Capitol Hill for their new park near the Anacostia waterfront next year, RFK Stadium is down to one tenant — soccer’s D.C. United. The fact that none of the four major sports will reside in RFK inevitably raises the question of how much longer the aging facility will last, and what might replace it.

If RFK is razed and the United find a new home — a big “if” at this point — Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) envisions the area being redeveloped with housing, business and recreational facilities.

The area could be “the kind of thing the suburbs have,” Wells said. “It would be close to the Metro and clearly serve the whole city and add to the quality of life.”

Sharing Wells’ desire is the National Capital Planning Commission, the federal D.C. planning agency that in December made a proposal for the 190-acre site.

But Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans (D) would like to see football return to the District and hopes the Washington Redskins will bolt their 10-year-old stadium in Landover, Md., and build on the RFK site.

Evans’ spokesman, Sean Metcalf, said the councilmember hopes Redskins owner Dan Snyder would build a stadium with a retractable dome.

The problem with that, Wells said, is that “RFK really does not generate new amenities for the area. No new restaurants. It didn’t bring in anything. That’s a part of Washington where we do need new amenities like restaurants, a grocery store, other things in that neighborhood.”

The NCPC, though not involved in negotiations, last year drew up a plan for the site, which in addition to the stadium contains parking lots and practice fields.

The plan would turn the 15-acre parking lot directly across from the D.C. Armory, which is adjacent to RFK, into a public building such as a museum or aquarium. There would be 20 acres of mixed-use development, a 30-acre monument plot where the stadium currently is, and an 80-acre waterfront park with sports fields along the Anacostia River.

“The NCPC plan had a lot of input from Ward 6 residents,” Wells said. “It reflects a lot of what Ward 6 residents would like to see on that site.”

Redevelopment would revolve on the terms of the 1986 statute in which D.C. is leasing the land from the National Park Service.

According to the 50-year lease, the land may be used only for “stadium purposes, recreation facilities, open space or public outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Julia Koster, an NCPC planning director.

“It’s pretty clear,” she said, “the things we proposed in the study, the retail and mixed-use development, are not currently allowed under the lease agreement. Implementing the plan would require action by Congress.”

But Wells indicated he would try to change the lease rather than allow a new stadium that might be used only a dozen times per year (eight Redskins home games plus preseason) to be built.

Wells said he has not spoken with his colleague Evans about RFK but that he has a good relationship with the councilmember, who represents Dupont Circle, Georgetown and other parts of Northwest.

“I feel certain that if [a new Redskins stadium at RFK] were a real possibility he would have been in to talk with me by now,” Wells said. “If it becomes a real possibility, he’ll come in and talk with me.”

All sides stressed that they were working together and that any decisions are years off.

“One of the reasons we produced this stadium study was for people to talk about long-term uses on the site as part of an informed discussion,” Koster said. “I’m sure there will be lots of discussion about what’s appropriate on that site.”