DC Mayor Muriel Bowser says she wants to put another football stadium on the site where RFK Stadium currently sits, even though a study to look into other potential future uses of the campus is still incomplete.

Photo by Seth Sawyers on Flickr.

With DC United set to move out of RFK, there has been a lot of interest and discussion around potential future uses of this valuable campus, a waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. In 2014, then-mayor Vincent Gray tasked Events DC, the city’s stadium and convention authority, to conduct a study on future uses of the site.

Events DC’s study, which is being managed by consulting firm Brailsford and Dunleavy, has continued under the Bowser Administration. Just last week, Events DC announced that the first of two meetings to seek community feedback on the study will be held later this month.

However, when I asked Mayor Bowser to share her vision of the future of the RFK site during a recent meeting with ANC commissioners, she stated her desire to build a new football stadium at the site, calling the Events DC study a fallback plan.

Her rationale? Besides the site’s history of hosting football, Mayor Bowser noted the large size of the site and that a new stadium would not preclude other development activities. She also said that other cities have successfully built stadiums that have fit well into the surrounding neighborhood (though she didn’t mention specific cities or stadiums).

Stadiums don’t do the public much good

Just because you have a lot of land does not mean you need to use a huge portion of it for a football stadium. In fact, stadiums will bring little to their cities and surrounding neighborhoods. Football stadiums are used 10 times a year for games, leaving an empty shell the remainder of the time.

If it remains a stadium, the RFK site will look like this almost every day of the year. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr.

Since tailgating is part of the football experience, football stadiums are typically surrounded by empty parking lots. At RFK, that would mean the continued separation of the surrounding neighborhood from the Anacostia waterfront.

And NFL owners make money when fans buy their concessions in the stadium itself, not at places nearby. Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, has been particularly hostile toward the idea of integrating with surrounding businesses. If you need evidence of how this has played out, ask yourself: when was the last time you went shopping or dining at a local business or restaurant next to FedEx Field?

Sites like the proposed Capital River Youth Sports Park would be better uses of the RFK land than a new stadium. Image from CRYSP.

Yet Mayor Bowser has effectively shut down the process before it has begun.

The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. Unfortunately, Mayor Bowser appears ready to ignore residents and waste taxpayer dollars and time on a study she has already shelved.

If you agree that DC residents deserve to have a say on the future of RFK, I encourage you to attend one of Events DC’s two upcoming community meetings and express your concerns about the process. The first is on Wednesday, September 16th from 6-9pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, and the second is on September 30, with the time and location still to come. You can also contact the Mayor’s Office directly at 202-727-2643 or eom@dc.gov.