Washington, DC officials have announced that RFK Stadium will be demolished by 2021, but insist that the plans are not tied to an effort to build a new Washington Redskins stadium at the site.
Built and designed as a multipurpose venue, RFK Stadium was home to the Redskins from 1961-1996. It has gone largely unused since MLS’s D.C. United–its last major sports tenant–played its final match there in the fall of 2017, which has prompted increased expectations that it will be demolished in the coming years.
The future of the stadium is now becoming clearer, as D.C. officials announced Thursday that RFK Stadium will be demolished by 2021. Financial implications for keeping it standing have been cited as the primary motivator for moving forward with demolition, as the city is spending $2 million annually for maintenance and related expenses plus an additional $1.5 million in utilities.
What officials are stressing, however, is that the demolition is not tied to any effort to lure the Redskins back to the site. Although there has been some sentiment for seeing the franchise return to the RFK Stadium site as it maps out its plans to replace FedEx Field in suburban Landover, MD, District officials indicate that there have not been serious conversations with the organization about a new stadium in over a year. More from the Washington Post:
“We don’t want to throw money after a resource that’s exceeded its useful life,” Events DC President Gregory A. O’Dell said.
The demolition also will make it easier for the District to move ahead with plans over the next five to seven years to build a $500 million recreational and event space for residents and tourists, O’Dell said.
He and other officials pushed back against speculation that the city was bulldozing RFK to pave a path for the Redskins to replace it with a new stadium. John Falcicchio, chief of staff to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), said the District has had “no substantive conversations” with the team about a new stadium in 13 months.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said the team would have only one comment: “We support the mayor’s decision.”
The Redskins have been searching for stadium options beyond the 2027 expiration of their FedEx Field lease. While there are some fans and elected officials that have backed the idea of a return to the RFK Stadium site, it presents plenty of challenges that would have to be addressed. Events D.C. manages the RFK Stadium site under a lease with the National Park Service that expires in 2038. Longer control at the local level, whether it is through a purchase or lease extension, is seen as vital to any discussion of building a new stadium at the site. Land use has also been a subject of debate, as the current lease between NPS and the District contains very specific language limiting the site to a stadium, or public and recreational uses–-providing hurdles to any commercial development surrounding a new Redskins facility. Additionally, some members of the city council have come out against the idea of building a new NFL stadium at the site, contending that uses such as housing and recreation space are more vital needs.
Events DC has issued a request for proposals from prospective demolition service firms, with a response deadline of October 25. The current timeline calls for RFK Stadium to be mostly demolished by fall 2021.
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