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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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RFK Stadium Bill Advances to Senate After Lopsided House Vote

  • The bill allows Washington, D.C., to potentially repurpose the old site of RFK Stadium for various purposes, including a new home for the Commanders football team.
  • The bill’s passage in the House, with a vote margin of 348–55, indicates strong bipartisan consensus and support for D.C.’s plans.
D.C. Events

House lawmakers were in a show of bipartisanship Wednesday on a bill allowing D.C. to use the old site of RFK Stadium for a potential new home of the Commanders. 

The D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act passed easily in the House of Representatives, with the only measurable opposition coming from Maryland. The bill establishing a new 99-year lease for the federally controlled land passed by a 348–55 margin and will move on to the Senate. 

“During my tenure in Congress, I’ve worked to transfer control of underused federal land in the District to local D.C. so it can be put to productive use,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), who worked with Rep. James Comer (R., Ky.) to craft the legislation. “Thank you to [Oversight Committee] Chairman Comer for your partnership on this important issue.”

A stadium is one of the options that D.C. officials can do with the land if the bill becomes law after the Senate passes the bill—or similar legislation—and President Joe Biden signs it. Neither of those is a slam dunk, although the bipartisan support in Congress does bode well for D.C. 

While D.C. would have jurisdiction over the land, city leaders could use the parcel for commercial and residential development and parks. No matter how the land will be used, 30% of the acreage must be set aside for open space/parks, according to the text of HB 4984

This was only the 41st bill passed by the House since the 118th Congress was seated 13 months ago, a sign of the political division on Capitol Hill. The vote was conducted under suspension, which limits debate and is typically reserved for legislation that has broad support. 

“This bipartisan legislation will repurpose approximately 174 acres of unused federal land in the nation’s capital and provide the District with an opportunity to create meaningful new jobs, add millions in city revenue, and transform the Anacostia River waterfront into a top-tier destination for residents and visitors,” Comer said in a statement. “Absent congressional action, this land would sit unused, and the ongoing maintenance costs and environmental liabilities would remain the full responsibility of the federal government.”

The bill had that support from reps nationwide—minus Maryland, where the Commanders have called home since 1999. None of the eight representatives from Maryland voted in favor of the bill, and all but one—Rep. Jamie Raskin, who abstained—voted against the bill. 

“I believe Prince George’s County in Maryland should be able to compete on a level playing field to keep the Washington Commanders,” Rep. Glenn Ivey said earlier Wednesday when the bill was briefly debated. “But this bill would give an unfair advantage to D.C. It’s most certainly not a level playing field when one interested jurisdiction receives a free transfer of federal government subsidized land.”

Maryland lawmakers were also vocal when the bill was debated during an Oversight Committee hearing in September. 

The Commanders are expected to play in Landover, Maryland, for at least the next few seasons, but the venue will have a new name after FedEx announced on Wednesday that it would end its sponsorship of the stadium two years early. The stadium will now be called Commanders Field as the team seeks to replace FedEx. 

And Josh Harris’s ownership group—which took over the team in July—continues to seek out a spot for what is expected to be a new domed stadium. Wednesday’s vote out of D.C. is closer to being in play for the site. 

“Incredible bi-partisan landslide of support…for the bill to give the RFK site to DC,” Commanders co-owner Mark Ein wrote on X (formerly Twitter). 

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