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If it feels like there have been a lot of ribbon cuttings for local sports venues in the past 12 months, that’s because there have. D.C. United’s Audi Field made its debut last July, and just this past weekend, the Washington Mystics played in its new arena in Congress Heights for the first time.
This Saturday, Mayor Muriel Bowser and EventsDC, the city’s convention and sports authority, will officially add another to the list. Three multi-purpose recreational turf fields, appropriately named “The Fields at RFK Campus,” have replaced 27 acres of asphalt and parking lots near RFK Stadium in Northeast.
The fields are the first completed piece of the RFK Campus Development Project led by EventsDC, which also operates the Mystics’ home arena that officially opened last September.
“I think in many respects this reaffirms the notion that the District is a sports capital,” says Max Brown, chair of EventsDC’s board of directors. “Sports and recreation help drive tourism, help provide amenities, and also creates jobs.”
In addition to the mayor, Councilmembers Charles Allen and Vince Gray and D.C. United star Wayne Rooney will be in attendance on Saturday to celebrate the opening. The three fields will be able to accommodate kickball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and softball.
Brown envisions that this is “just the tip of the broader development of the campus,” and points to Chelsea Piers in New York as a model to emulate.
According to Curbed, the fields were initially budgeted to cost over $30 million. With the city facing problems with affordable housing and education, among other issues, Brown knows that there are people who would rather have had the city spend money elsewhere. But Brown, the former deputy chief of staff for ex-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, believes it’s important to invest in these types of facilities.
“We can invest in affordable housing, education, infrastructure, and we can also spend money on sports and recreation for people,” he says. “It’s what big cities do … It’s not a zero sum game. Great cities in the world invest in people. When you invest in people, you’re investing in education, roads, public safety, sports, and recreation.”
“So it’s a false choice that if you invest in this, you don’t invest in that,” Brown continues. “I think we have enough money to do everything we can do in this city. We just have to manage it well, and the mayor is doing an incredible job with managing this city.”
It’s well documented that there are people who disagree with that sentiment, but this weekend will likely be another festive occasion for Bowser and EventsDC, and a win for people in the area who are looking for more places to play recreational sports. Brown says that individuals will be able to reserve the fields online at the RFK Campus website starting this weekend.
And while the mayor has made clear her interest in having the Washington football team return to D.C., Brown says EventsDC “intentionally stayed out of discussions” in regards to that, and instead focused on “how can we activate [this space] now, how can we provide value today.”
“We finally got this campus turning in the [same] direction as the rest of this city,” says Brown.
This article has been updated to indicate that the fields are located in Northeast.