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The Aquilian

    The future of RFK stadium on Capitol Hill

    An+aerial+view+of+Robert+F.+Kennedy+Memorial+Stadium.+MSGT+Ken+Hammond%2C+Public+domain%2C+via+Wikimedia+Commons
    An aerial view of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. (Photo by MSGT Ken Hammond, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

    By Michael Marshall—

    The glory days of Washington’s landmark stadium, RFK, are long gone. The defunct stadium, previously home to DC’s professional football, baseball and soccer teams, is set to be demolished next year. This paves the way for a major real estate development opportunity in the heart of Washington. Investors, politicians, and DC residents have vocalized their ideas for how the vast space should be used, including plans for a new stadium, housing, and recreation centers. 

    The federal government leases the property to DC and, under its current terms, the site is to be used for “sports and recreation”. It may require an act of Congress to change the lease for a different purpose. At this point, the future of the site is in limbo. 

    Mr. Michael Barrett is a community and youth sports activist focused on developing urban play-spaces and more environmentally sustainable practices in DC. He has dealt with this issue firsthand as a board member for CRYSP DC, a non-profit advocacy group focused on creating fields for sports and recreation in the District. The organization seeks to expand field space for local youth athletic leagues including Sports on The Hill and Washington Capital United Soccer. 

    This image is render depicting The Fields at RFK. (Photo from CRYSP DC. via CRYSPDC.org)

    In an interview, Mr. Barrett explains CRYSP’s success in securing the development of The Fields at RFK Campus, a $35.8 million multi-use sports fields complex occupying a repurposed RFK Stadium parking lot. 

    “We worked together to develop a proposal to redevelop the RFK lots for the purpose of sports fields since that land was basically unused. We formed a non-profit group, Friends of Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park (CRYSP) and then set about convincing the city to agree to build the park.  It took us about 8 years to get a final decision, then only another year or so to get it finished in 2019,” Mr. Barrett explained

    The federal government’s ownership of the land further complicates matters. 

    “It makes it a bit harder for the DC city government to commit large resources to the area, for example, a big sportsplex, stadium, etc., because they worry about the lack of control over the land. That is why DC wants the Federal Government to sell it to them. Until that issue is figured out, it may just be smaller things like the RFK Fields,” Mr. Barrett said.

    The Fields at RFK Campus transformed an unused 27-acre lot into an elaborate park with playgrounds and multi-sport turf fields. Although a major advancement, The Fields only cover a portion of the over 100-acre RFK campus. Pending the demolition of the stadium, there is still no set plan for how the land will be used. 

    “I think Events DC will do incremental improvements beyond the RFK Fields to add fields for other sports… Longer term, I would hope they do a community sportsplex and aquatic center in the south parking lot…  I think they will get lots of upset neighbors if they try to put an NFL stadium there,” Mr. Barrett said.

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