An Open Letter to Those Who Wish to Refurbish RFK Stadium

Patrick Smith

Stop saying that Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium can be refurbished or that a new stadium can be built in its place: its never going to happen.

In the aftermath of yesterday's Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Forum on the proposed Buzzard Point soccer stadium, a disturbing trend has reemerged. And so I take to this blog and write an open letter to you, person who thinks that D.C. United should just refurbish RFK Stadium. And to sum up my feelings about this whole proposal, I say this: stop it. If you support the refurbishment of RFK Stadium, it is clear to me that you have not been there in the past 10 years, that you don't understand the basic economics of stadium construction, and that you don't realize that the stadium's land is owned by the Federal government.

RFK Stadium is infested with rats, racoons, wasps, and probably a myriad of other creatures. Its concession don't make enough money, it doesn't have luxury boxes, it was built for football and baseball, and it is literally crumbling. It is one of the last multi-use cookie cutter stadiums that is still in use around the country; everyone else has already moved on to sports specific stadiums that are customized to that sports particular needs. A minor spruce up isn't going to change any of that. A major renovation of the stadium would likely cost well over the cost of a new stadium. For example, proposed renovations to the Rogers Centre, a similarly styled stadium of a similar age, would cost over $250 million to retrofit and modernize the stadium. And the land upon which the stadium sits is owned by the Federal government, who would have to give approval if the District wanted to just tear down the stadium and build a new one in its place. One of the only deliberative bodies more dysfunctional than the D.C. Council is our beloved Federal government.

I can understand having thoughtful debate over spending money on stadiums, whether sports teams increase economic output in their city, civic planning, and a whole host of other issues. But please, I beg you: stop suggesting that RFK can be refurbished or that the RFK site can hold a new stadium.

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