City Desk

What Should Happen to RFK Stadium?

RFK in 1988

Matthew Yglesias wants more city where RFK Stadium currently stands:

It’s striking to me how unpopular what I think the obvious and roughly correct solution is. The structure should be demolished and the empty land plus the open air parking lots should be sold to builders to build . . . whatever. An urban neighborhood with houses and some stores. You’re talking about a big parcel of land that’s right by a Metro station offering a convenient 10 minute commute to the House-side of the Capitol. If you build some houses, people will live there and if people live there they’ll want to shop in some stores and eat in some restaurants. Trying to lure a football team to the location to play eight times a year is insane, but in general “what to do with a bunch of transit accessible land in the middle of a city?” isn’t such a complicated question. Just build more city.

But it's not totally fair to say that the Yglesian solution is unpopular. After all, that's what the federal government's local planning agency, the National Capital Planning Commission, proposed for the 190 acres that RFK Stadium sits on back in 2006:

It should include a large waterfront park, with recreational fields and open space, augmented by commemorative works and connected to the surrounding neighborhoods by pedestrian and bicycle paths.

The interior of the site should include new residential and retail development. The retail element should include restaurants and cafés as well as service-oriented businesses such as dry cleaners and bookshops. A proposed new commemorative attraction, such as a museum, across from the D.C. Armory building, which is adjacent to the stadium, would attract a steady flow of visitors to the area.

This is definitely "more city" than currently exists there. Unless you think a skate park a city makes.

Photo by Ken Hammond via Wikimedia Commons license

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  • Joshua Hatch

    I'd love to see American University buy that land and open up a second campus. It could focus on government/politics and environmental sciences. It would be great for the university and the area.

  • PBS

    As a homeowner in that neighborhood - yes please, yes please, yes please. I grew up in NE a Skins fan, but the stadium has to go. The NCPC proposal sounds fantastic.

  • Ant

    All of that will eventually happen especially since land is now a premium. Give it a few years.

    Sorry Joshua - I don't think AU has enough cash on hand for a purchase that large.

  • Rosina

    The stadium is awesome. I dig having soccer there. I love going to the stadium. I don't think we need to congest and develop every parcel of land either. wtf? the bike trail and skatepark are enough for me, a 30 year resident.

    Everyone screaming to develop seems to just want a piece of the current sickening land grab... We really don't need much more on this side of the Anacostia. If you want to add some stores send them to ward 7 and 8, they actually needs them.

  • hawkeye

    That stadium is terrible for soccer. Even if you could come close to selling it out for a United game it would be the wrong type of stadium. Building a new, smaller stadium as well as adding new development would be a great use of the land though.

  • JAY

    Sell the land. Give the money back to the taxpayers.

  • oboe

    The stadium is awesome. I dig having soccer there. I love going to the stadium. I don't think we need to congest and develop every parcel of land either. wtf? the bike trail and skatepark are enough for me, a 30 year resident.

    Build a stadium about 1/8th the size of RFK, eliminate all the parking, and use the rest for retail/residential. We live in a city. If any of us *don't* want to live in a city, there are plenty of options that are, y'know, out of the city.

  • drkrick

    During the '94 World Cup, quite a few international sportswriters said RFK was one of the best stadiums for soccer (well, they said football) that they had ever seen. They were amazed since they knew it was entirely by accident, but the dimensions and the way the overhang reflects sound made for a great soccer experience.

    Unfortunately, it's way past its useful life and an excited sellout crowd might collapse it. But in its time, it was a great soccer venue. A 1/3 replica somewhere in the District would be a great thing

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