Late last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser was joined by former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Events DC, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and special guests to mark the ceremonial removal of the last orange wooden seats of RFK Stadium’s lower bowl. In November, Events DC kicked off the Farewell RFK Stadium campaign to celebrate and honor the legacy of DC’s most iconic sports and concert venue.
“DC has made a lot of good memories at RFK, and now as we say farewell to this stadium, we are looking ahead to the future. We are thinking about all the possibilities for this 190-acre campus – the opportunities to honor the legacy of Senator Kennedy with housing, jobs, opportunity, and more,” said Mayor Bowser. “We have a strong track record of putting underutilized federal land to productive use, and we want to do the same here. The Fields at RFK have given us a glimpse into what is possible. We look forward to building and opening a world-class sports complex here. And there is so much more potential to activate this space, to connect our waterfront, and to make this campus a major destination for Washington, DC and the region.”
RFK Stadium opened in 1961 as the DC Stadium and was renamed in honor of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1969. After serving as a sports and concert venue until 2019, the stadium has since been closed to the public and is now undergoing selective demolition.
Over the past several years, Mayor Bowser and Events DC have joined efforts to put parts of the campus back to productive use for the community, including opening The Fields at RFK Campus in 2019. The Mayor’s budget includes $60 million to create the SportsComplex@RFK, an indoor sports complex that will accommodate gymnastics, indoor track and field, boxing, and more. The budget also includes $18.5 million to build pedestrian and bicycle bridges across the Anacostia River to connect residents to River Terrace, the RFK Campus, Hill East, and Kingman and Heritage Islands.
“RFK Stadium has long been part of the fabric of the Sports Capital. In its prime, RFK Stadium hosted the world’s biggest events,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. “Now, we are at a pivotal moment where the RFK Stadium will come down, but the work ahead will continue to honor Senator Kennedy’s legacy by making our RFK Campus a mixed-use destination with a preponderance of housing at all levels — affordable, middle income, and market — along with hospitality, retail, and sports uses that provide jobs and a fair shot to DC residents.”
RFK Stadium has served as a landmark and an entertainment venue that helped to build memories for so many people in the District, in Maryland and Virginia, the country, and the world. Over the years, the Commanders, Washington Nationals, and D.C. United have all called the stadium home and the stadium also hosted a wide range of major events, including 1996 Olympic soccer, the 1994 Men’s FIFA World Cup, the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and countless concerts and performances.
“This iconic stadium—from the curving rooftop all the way down to the orange seats by the field—has played a role in so many of our lives. So many of the talented athletes and musical performers that came here to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium are forever in our hearts and minds,” said Events DC President and CEO Angie M. Gates. “There are so many individual moments that this stadium brought to us that we will hold dear and celebrate today and will continue to honor during our Farewell RFK Stadium campaign: The Stands Rocked. The Fans Roared. The Legacy Remains.”
The RFK Stadium is named after the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who advocated for housing and economic justice. Mayor Bowser’s vision is to honor his legacy by using the land at RFK to build affordable housing and create jobs for District residents.
“It is an honor to celebrate the landmark stadium named for my father. I thank each of you here helping to commemorate this special moment. I’m happy that the sale of the seats will benefit the community organizations that inspire our youth and pay tribute to my father’s work,” said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.
As the District looks to the future of the campus, Mayor Bowser is seeking the complete transfer of the 190-acre campus to the District. The reactivation of RFK Campus would be the latest example of the District acquiring federal land and putting it to better use for DC residents. The District has redeveloped several large-scale properties previously owned by the federal government, including the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Ward 4 (66.7 acres), the St. Elizabeths East campus (183 acres) in Ward 8, and The Wharf at the southwest waterfront (27 acres of land) in Ward 6. All developments, although none as large as the RFK Campus, have resulted in affordable housing, jobs, retail, and recreational opportunities for residents.
Throughout the decommissioning process, Events DC has preserved memorabilia from the stadium, including plaques, seats, and signage. An initial selection of orange wooden and plastic seating from RFK Stadium’s lower bowl available for public purchase. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of stadium seats and memorabilia will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and St. Coletta of Greater Washington. Those interested in purchasing a seat can learn more HERE.
Events DC started the selective demolition of RFK Stadium, including abating hazardous materials in August 2022. RFK Stadium is currently undergoing demolition and closed to the public, with major structural components scheduled to be demolished by the end of 2023.