Friday, October 14, 2011

Political Venue: The History of RFK Stadium, Part Eight

Not getting any younger

Eventually we get to the part where the Redskins played football in RFK for decades. Then left. Curly R's special series on the history of RFK Stadium concludes.

Part One: Faded Glory
Part Two: Government Intervention
Part Three: Football and Race
Part Four: A Complex Relationship
Part Five: Ernie Davis, Bobby Mitchell and Ron Hatcher
Part Six: Palace Intrigue
Part Seven: The Stadium Becomes Legend
Part Eight: Coda


Responding to requests for specific RFK memories, many polled for this article did not even cite football games. RFK Stadium held other sporting matches, including spring training baseball and international soccer. Dozens of big names played concerts in RFK, including the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, the Allman Brothers, Aerosmith, Yes, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, U2 and The Who, among others.

Today, RFK is in bad shape. The concrete is crumbling, ceilings are sagging and the stadium's only regular tenant, Major League Soccer's DC United, is complaining. One day soon, DC United will be in their own soccer-only stadium, leaving RFK empty once again.

And then what will happen to RFK? Well probably nothing in the near term. After spending six hundred and ten million dollars on a municipal stadium for the Washington Nationals baseball team, there is not much appetite in the District for a new stadium built on spec, with no guaranteed tenant.

Redskins fans wonder why the team cannot simply move back to that site. FedEx Field is old before its time and rumors have persisted for years that while Prince George's County in Maryland is trying to negotiate back the land rights to the stadium site, the District is also negotiating to get the team back right on the RFK Stadium site.

Why can't it happen? Politics. Logistics.

The Redskins have an agreement with Prince George's County to stay in the county until at least 2027, another sixteen years. Both parties, of course, could agree to nullify that contract. Meanwhile, over in the District, Dan Snyder is far too shrewd to agree to any stadium deal that does not involve him owning everything from the dirt up. That means the federal government, which owns the entire stadium site, would have to transfer the land to the District, which would then have to sell it to Dan. Of course these transactions would come with years of haggling, posturing and environmental studies.

The adjacent campus of the defunct DC General Hospital has been in development limbo for a decade, with plans for a riverwalk-style mixed use community drifting aimlessly. No enterprise redevelopment of RFK and the surrounding parcels would be permitted without attached development requirements for this area, similar to what Verizon Center did for Chinatown and what Nationals Stadium is trying to do for the Navy Yard. Who would pay for what and what guarantees could be extracted for community development add to the complexity of any possible deals.

What do Redskins fans really want? What they already had, what they miss: RFK Stadium.

They want Dan Snyder, the famous deal maker, to get it done, to tear down RFK and rebuild it as a modern stadium: Bigger, with the same shape and allure and all the amenities of modern stadiums. Redskins fans want to see that icon back on the horizon from Interstate 295, coming down East Capitol Street, coming off Metro. Redskins fans will accede to Dan Snyder's demands for luxury suites and all the necessities of making money in the modern NFL, as long as they get their beloved RFK back. Call it Son of RFK.

In the end, all Redskins fans have is memories, sometimes hazy ones, and the oral tradition of RFK Stadium to pass down to the next generation.

In our dreams, we all sit under a giant Budweiser clock.

This concludes Curly R's special series on the history of RFK Stadium, I hope you have enjoyed it. Tomorrow we will publish our list of references used for this series.

RFK Stadium: Dudley Brooks / Washington Post photo from here via here.




Son of RFK would have to be a lot bigger than the original. (80k or so versus 58k for Skins games at RFK). The NFL has changed quite a bit these last few decades.



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