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Monday, May 20, 2024

RFK’s Demolition Could Fast-Track Commanders’ Return to D.C.

  • The National Park Service gives the official green light to demolish the vacant facility.
  • The Commanders have seen several other NFL teams move ahead in facility development efforts.
USA TODAY Sports

RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., is now officially coming down, and that step could become an accelerant to the Commanders’ long-running efforts to develop a new stadium.

The National Park Service said Thursday that the 62-year-old stadium, last used in 2019, can be demolished without negative environmental effects. A study undertaken by the NPS found that the stadium is “in a state of disrepair,” but that demolition would have “no significant impact” on the “natural, cultural, and human environment.” A timetable for the actual work to be done will be set as the NPS issues a permit to D.C.

The facility sits on federally owned NPS land but is controlled by D.C. Because of that unusual structure, a bill is now in front of the U.S. Senate that would transfer the land to D.C. That measure has already cleared the House of Representatives. 

If that were to happen, a clean RFK Stadium site owned fully by D.C. would provide mayor Muriel Bowser even more momentum to pursue a stadium deal with the Commanders. The NFL team is also evaluating potential options in Maryland, where the franchise currently plays, and in Virginia, with that process stretching back many years and long before the current ownership group led by Josh Harris. But given RFK Stadium was where the franchise had its greatest success, including three Super Bowl–winning seasons, fan sentiment has leaned hard toward returning to that site. 

“We’re excited that the process is moving forward and taking us one step closer to the District putting the land at RFK to a higher and better use,” said Nina Albert, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

Bowser also recently struck a deal with Monumental Sports & Entertainment to keep the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals in D.C. through a long-term lease extension at Capital One Arena. 

Keeping Up

Though the active pursuit of a new Commanders stadium deal stretches back nearly a decade, going back to the franchise’s prior name and ownership, several other NFL teams have moved ahead in their own facility development efforts, including the Bills, Titans, and potentially now the Bears, Chiefs, and Browns

In part because of the rising urgency around the stadium situation, the Commanders recently hired Capitol Hill insider Kirtan Mehta to help deepen the team’s ties to area political leaders.

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