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With New D.C. United Stadium In The Offing, What's Next For RFK?

After D.C. United departs, what will happen with RFK Stadium?
After D.C. United departs, what will happen with RFK Stadium?

On Thursday Mayor Vince Gray announced that D.C. would help professional soccer team D.C. United build a $300 million stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C. For team officials and fans, the news couldn't have been better—the 52-year-old RFK Stadium the team currently plays in may be historic, but it's not particularly practical for soccer purposes.

But if and when the new stadium is built—2016 is the hope—RFK would lose its last professional tenant, and, by extension, one of the few remaining reasons for existing. Since being built in 1961, RFK has played host to 10 professional sports teams, numerous concerts and a mass wedding. In the 1970s, it was even used as a site for holding thousands anti-war activists who were arrested during May Day protests.

In 1996, though, RFK lost the Washington Redskins, and though the Washington Nationals played three seasons there after returning to D.C., the only remaining glory in the aging stadium has been United, a few college football games—including the AT&T Nation's Football Classic—and the occasional U.S. men's national soccer team match.

That, of course, begs the question: without United in the stadium's long-term future, what's next for RFK?

At Thursday's press conference, Gray reiterated what has long been a dream of many city officials—that D.C. could get the Washington Redskins back to within city limits. "I frankly think it would be a great site for a major football stadium," he mused. Gray has said in the past that he'd even settle for a Redskins training facility.

Residents of the nearby Hill East neighborhood have never been keen on the idea, preferring instead that the land south of RFK be used for mixed-use developments. (Plans for such developments have been in the works for over a decade, but are only inching forward now.) Additionally, another group has proposed using some of the parking lots north of the stadium for a new network of parks.

Those groups may have an ally in the National Capital Planning Commission, which in a 2006 report identified the entire 190-acre site as a possible location for a new gateway to D.C.

"NCPC planners believe the RFK site should be an environmentally friendly gateway into the monumental core. 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," said the report.

For now, though, the stadium will remain D.C. United's home. Additionally, D.C. officials say that pre-planned events in and around the stadium will go on as planned.

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