Debate over future of RFK Stadium site and DC football heats up

The old structure of RFK Stadium (WTOP/John Domen)
The ball is starting to roll on a plan to try to lure pro football back to the District, as congressional hearings begin Tuesday on a bill to give control of a possible future site back to the city.

A bipartisan bill sponsored by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer would give control of the RFK Stadium site to the D.C. government. Currently that land is under federal control.

The D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act” would allow the land to be used for “Stadium purposes. Commercial and residential development, providing recreational facilities, open space, or public outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Delano Hunter, acting director of the D.C. Department of General Services, testified about the legislation before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

He noted that Mayor Muriel Bowser not only hopes the bill will lead to a new stadium on the old RFK stadium site, but a wide range of development and expanded parkland as well.

“Despite the District’s investments in fields and nearby trails, most of the 190-acre campus sits empty, day in and day out,” Hunter said. “Instead of connecting our community or serving as a grand entryway to the east side of our monumental core, it is mostly a desolate sea of asphalt.”

Hunter noted that D.C. officials have discussed plans for the area that include an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gymnastics training facility, indoor track and multipurpose field, boxing facility, health and fitness club “and so much more.”

Lawmakers’ questions about the legislation included concerns about how D.C. and the National Park Service will ensure that a large percentage of the land will also be used for parks and trails.

Bowser has long wanted control of the site and has expressed that she would like to see the Washington Commanders move back to the city now that the team is under new ownership.

But some D.C. Council members are not as keen on the idea of building a new dome on the sight for the NFL team.

“It’s pretty clear that NFL stadiums around the country don’t generate the jobs,” Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen told the DMV Download podcast last month. “They don’t generate the tax revenue and return. They’re not a good investment to your public dollars or good use of your land.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability will have a hearing Wednesday.

The current lease at FedEx Field is set to expire in 2027, but Maryland leaders have expressed that they will work hard to keep the team in place.

New Commanders owner Josh Harris told WTOP news partners at 7News, “It’s a really complicated decision. We’ve already started building a real estate organization. We’ve hired someone to look into it. We’ve started to engage with the different cities. All I know is I want to end up with a stadium where our players feel that 13th man, that noise when they’re playing where opposing teams are scared to come.”

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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