By Gene Lambey,
Special to the AFRO
Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke at a public community meeting hosted by St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church and the Friends of Kingman Park community group on Oct. 18 to discuss the future of the old RFK Stadium and its surrounding areas.
The community meeting took place at St. Benedict the Moor Church’s Imperial Room with over 300 people in attendance.
Plans for the old RFK Stadium have been in discussions for over a decade now. It’s known as a relic of the past, being the original location for Washington’s football team, the Commanders, the Washington Nationals Baseball team and the D.C. United Soccer team.
The D.C. City Council and the U.S. House of Representatives have finally made headway for the plot of land within the foreseeable future.
“We cannot talk about sports without mentioning it is also linked to how the city invests in itself. I’ve been blessed with longevity in office so I’ve seen a lot of projects go from start to finish,” said,” said Bowser. “I expect that there will be capital investment dollars needed for the infrastructure work on this 174 acres. Whether there is a NFL stadium there or not, we’re going to need to do that over many years and I will also propose that funding to the council.”
Bowser explained how building stadiums can in fact benefit the District, increasing the economy within the region and adding new jobs within the region as she mentioned with Nationals Park, Capital One Arena and the Audi Field.
The overall layout of the RFK Stadium campus is 174 acres of open parking space on the southern side and to the north are The Fields, a recreational space for soccer, baseball, football and a large playground area in addition to the Maloof Skatepark which is located in front of the RFK stadium across from the Armory.
Bowser’s overall goal is to build a multi-purpose stadium that is accessible to youth sports and a place for the Washington Commanders to hold games in D.C. once they have control of the land.
She expressed that a $60 million dollar budget plan for the indoor sports complex on the RFK Stadium grounds was part of the city council’s financial plan as of last year at the community meeting .
Bowser mentioned Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) releasing her statement on Sept. 20, 2023, proposing a bill, directing the federal government to revitalize RFK’s Stadium campus and lease the land for up to 99 years.
“D.C. currently leases the RFK campus from the federal government, but the campus may be used only for recreation, a stadium and open space, and the lease expires in 2038. Currently, the RFK campus primarily consists of parking lots, a stadium that is being demolished, and sports fields,” Norton released in a statement. “This bill would direct the federal government to lease the RFK campus to D.C. for up to 99 years and permit the campus to be used for commercial and residential development, recreation, a stadium and open space.”
Several residents were satisfied with Bowser’s answers to the community, while others were neutral or opposed to her claims.
Despite the opposition and approval from the community on Bowser’s answers on the state of RFK, she did believe that the current state of the old stadium is not presentable.
“One thing I think we can agree on is that the current state of RFK is unacceptable,” she said.
Bowser’s presentation was about 45 minutes. The community meeting featured a brief period for open questions and discussions after the meeting concluded.
Residents of the area were sent a survey weeks in advance on the proposal for a new Commanders stadium for the Washington football team or a new sports and recreation center, similar to the current Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex near FedEx Field in Prince George’s County, Md.
There was a large consensus from the Kingman Park neighborhood to not build a new stadium for the Commanders. It was a two to three vote opposing the construction of the Commanders stadium according to the community survey. The remaining vote was in favor of a sports and recreation center, another recreational space similar to The Fields, or more housing.
According to residents of the Kingman Park community, the main concerns were parking, housing, increased traffic, littering trash, removing a historical site and having D.C. resident tax dollars used toward the construction of the building of the new stadium.
The AFRO spoke with several attendees from the public community meeting.
Sandra Phillips Gilbert, a resident of the area, spoke on how she felt about the proposal for a new Commanders stadium or a sports and recreation center.
“I’m excited as long as it includes the recreation, what the community is asking for and where the community and government can collaborate to provide something for the D.C. residents, to benefit economically.”
Sandra says that she is in favor of a stadium that is mixed-used for recreation and sports events.
Rodney Red Grant, candidate for at-large D.C Council, expressed his thoughts on the community meeting.
“We have to get the stadium back here, so I want it to be something beautiful that we can be proud of. RFK means a lot to us. We’ve seen a lot of championships there and we haven’t had one since then. We want to make sure that we bring a great stadium here to Washington D.C.”
Grant is in favor of both a stadium and a sports complex arena.
J.T, professional skateboarder, skateboard instructor and skateshop worker, expressed his thoughts on how the construction would affect the skate park near the stadium.
“I’m not too happy with it just because there have been a lot of talks of them tearing down the skate park.”
J.T is in favor of an outdoor sports complex arena, not a stadium for the Commanders. He fears that the skaters at the local skate park will be displaced.
Aaron Davis, rapper, skateboarder and worker at Brackish Waters skate shop near National Harbor, MD, spoke on his thoughts on the future of the RFK stadium.
“I used to go to the D.C. United games and I feel like if there’s renovation and they accommodate the local community, I think it could be a good thing.”
Davis is in favor of a sports complex arena with a skateboard section, however he is concerned about the removal of a historic site.
Adam Martin, product manager for a software company and Kingman Park resident, spoke on his thoughts and concerns on having to pay for the construction of the new stadium or sports complex through tax dollars.
“Generally against D.C. paying and D.C. residents and taxpayers paying for a stadium but I’m open to
] thoughtful development plan.”
Martin is open-minded to a new stadium for the Commanders or a sports complex arena for multiple sports but is concerned about taxpayers and D.C. residents paying out of their pockets instead.
Ronald King, community relations specialist for the School of Medicine at George Washington University, gives his thoughts on the construction of a new stadium or sports arena.
“If we are able to build a stadium here and maintain The Fields at RFK, which are great, and they are used all-year long with the soccer fields and the other sports fields, I think it would be wonderful.”
King is in favor of a new stadium for the Commanders alongside the sports complex arena but hopes that The Fields, directly next to RFK are maintained.
The host of the community meeting, Friends of Kingman Park, plans to continue having community conversations on the matters surrounding the RFK stadium in two more meetings before the end of the year.
Overall, the future of RFK is not entirely decided, however whatever the result will be, the entirety of the District will be affected.