When D.C. United moves to a new facility at Buzzard Point in two years, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium will lose its last tenant and be demolished. What will replace it, though, is a source of some contention.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has publicly supported bringing the Washington National Football League team back to the District. That would mean building a new stadium for the franchise, as it’s unlikely that owner Dan Snyder would privately finance the entire deal.
A majority of those polled—58 percent—support building a stadium at RFK for the NFL franchise, while 36 percent oppose it, according to a D.C. Vote–Washington City Paper poll. But when the question of using city money to build it is raised, that support falls: More than 20 percent of the stadium’s supporters would oppose public funding of it.
A decade ago, seemingly held over a barrel by Major League Baseball, D.C. committed more than $600 million to build Nationals Park, and last summer, Bowser committed more than $150 million to United’s new home. Is there an appetite for more spending on sports?
The Advisory Neighborhood Commission reps nearest to the stadium say “no.”
“I believe the consensus is that a lot of citizens don’t want a stadium there and, to be frank, neither do I,” says Calvin Ward, who represents ANC 6A8.
Denise Rucker Krepp, the ANC 6B10 representative, was more blunt.
“There isn’t support [in the neighborhoods around RFK].They are worried about the cost. There are a lot of people who would like to see money that would go to RFK go for paid family medical leave,” Krepp says. “If you’re going to spend more than $100 million, there’s a feeling here that money would be spent better elsewhere than to give it to Dan Snyder. Why would we give it to a team that only plays eight games a year? There’s no community benefit to that. I think it’s a disgrace that [the mayor] is thinking about spending that money on a football stadium.”
A Bowser spokesperson declined to respond.
One other hurdle the mayor may face is the team’s name. More than half of the poll’s respondents—58 percent—find the team’s name offensive. While Bowser herself has declined to use the nickname when referring to the team, Snyder has refused to consider its removal. “I will never change the name. It’s that simple—NEVER. You can use caps,” he told USA Today in 2013. It makes the act of cutting a deal—one complicated by the Department of Interior’s insistence that the team drop the name before using the federal land RFK sits on—a high wire act for Bowser.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery; graphics by Zach Rausnitz