RFK Memorial Stadium has been abandoned since 2017, but it still stands rusting on the bank of the Anacostia River, posing neighborhood concerns over potential health and safety hazards to the Stadium-Armory neighborhood.
Events DC is in charge of the renewed development of the area. They own many of the district’s prominent event spaces like the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Nationals Park.
The demolition of RFK Stadium was initially scheduled for 2019, but according to Events DC, it was postponed first because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then because of a lack of funding to hire proper contractors for the job.
However, when contacted by The Wash, a spokesperson declined to provide a clear timeline for demolition. The spokesperson said “Events DC is not the owner of the stadium or the land it sits on. This is a DC Council issue.”
To tourists and residents alike, it continues to be an unpleasant eyesore in the Southeast. Some say they would prefer it gone, but others say they don’t mind the landmark, as long as it doesn’t cause them any harm.
Deja Williams, 22, is from Hagerstown, Maryland and visits the district to spend time with her boyfriend. She says she doesn’t love the view and she worries about the threats the aging stadium poses to the area’s residents.
“I don’t really care for it too much. I think that they’re probably gonna eventually pull it down because if they don’t it’s gonna end up falling apart anyways and create a hazard,” she said.
However, her biggest issue with the surviving stadium is that it takes away from the beauty of the new parks built in 2019.
The Fields at RFK are just the first part in Events DC’s five-part plan to rehabilitate the surrounding area. The park includes three turf fields for sports like soccer, baseball and kickball, a pavilion for public events and a playground.
On any given day, anyone can hear children playing and dogs strolling through the brand-new Fields park.
But there’s a stark contrast just across the street with unsavory views of weeds growing in abandoned parking lots and paint chipping in the distance.
The asbestos-riddled behemoth of unused metal that represents a former vibrant D.C. casts a shadow over new development, preventing a neighborhood stuck in the past from moving forward.
Nick Sanchez, 45, moved to the Southeast area six years ago. He said he wishes they would build a new stadium so he could see the Commanders play so close to home, but he also likes how the Fields have transformed the neighborhood.
“This has been great here. The Fields are in use every day. The playground is always busy, there’s always people working out and there’s games,” he said. “It’s really livened up the area here so I really dig the Fields.”
But residents are conflicted about what should replace the old home of Washington football. Some like Williams say they want to see stores and restaurants to replace a distinct lack of businesses in the mostly residential neighborhood, but others like Sanchez say they would like to see football return to the district.
In March, Mayor Muriel Bowser said part of the area would be turned into an indoor recreational facility according to DCist, but she wants to leave options open for a potential new stadium.
The issue of land ownership is another hurdle Events DC faces in the demolition process. A representative from the organization said that technically, the federal government owns the land that houses the structure. Events DC is only in charge of the demolition.
Mayor Bowser and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton have asked Congress to give the DC Council ownership of the 190 acres so they can get work done faster, but the process involves legislation that has not yet passed. Efforts to line up interviews with Rep. Norton didn’t come to fruition before publishing this article.
Currently, the District pays $3.5 million in maintenance costs every year to keep the 60-year-old stadium standing, but the home of feral raccoons and cats will soon be a distant memory.
Earlier this year, two fires broke out in the stadium’s basement level, caused by flammable “trash,” according to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
After news of the fire, Events D.C. said preliminary removal of hazardous materials has begun. They posted a Twitter statement saying demolition of major structural components will be completed by the end of 2023.”
The stadium will not have a controlled implosion, according to the Demolition Services Agreement obtained by WUSA 9. Instead, Smoot Construction has begun slowly removing hazardous materials like asbestos, which they expect will be finished in the coming months.