DC Needs a New Stadium Deal. But Not At RFK.

As you've probably noticed, after lying dormant for years, there's suddenly a lot of energy around the future of the 190-acre RFK campus. Like many in DC, I'm excited about a new era of Commanders ownership and seeing some success on the field soon. But now that the sale of the team has been finalized (and the name has been changed), the focus has shifted to the questions of where they'll be playing and if the District should put forward a proposal to build a new NFL stadium at RFK.

I've argued consistently that NFL stadiums are a poor use of land that have proven to be bad investments of your tax dollars. They take up acres of prime real estate for stadiums that sit dark more than 90% of the year, require enormous amounts of parking to accommodate events, and don't create the promised economic activity and jobs. Our land and our dollars are limited. So today, I wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that DC does need a deal for the future of a sports arena, but it's not RFK; it's Capital One Arena and the near daily activation of our city the site creates.

As I argue in the op-ed, Capital One Arena sits on top of one of the most connected Metro stops in the country, and it's where the Caps and Wizards play more than 80 home games a year, the Georgetown Hoyas play all of their home games, and there are plenty of concerts and special events - bringing the total to 230-240 events a year. The DowntownDC BID estimates all this activity brings in $330 million annually in tax revenues simply from game and concert days. If we're serious about our downtown's revitalization, investing in improvements for Capital One Arena has to be at the front of the line. Right after that would be making sure the District is a good landlord and steward for Nationals Park. Both the ballpark and Capital One Arena are far stronger economic drivers for the District than an NFL stadium could hope to be.

It's already been reported that Monumental Sports, which owns the Caps and Wizards, could consider relocating both teams outside the District if capital improvements to the arena go unaddressed, and it's clear that the ballpark will also need improvements in the coming years (the District actually owns that facility and needs to be a good landlord). The return on investment for spaces like Capital One and Nats Park, which are programmed almost all year with home games and events, absolutely overshadows what happens at an NFL stadium. Just compare Gallery Place or Navy Yard to Landover, Maryland.

While I'm looking forward to the District regaining control over the RFK site land - which we can and should use for investments like housing, retail, and green space - it doesn't make more sense financially or from a land use argument for the city to be focused on building an NFL stadium there. NFL stadiums demand a lot of space. There's just not a scenario in which we can have more community, more housing, more parks, and also meet the requirements of a stadium.

If you agree, share the op-ed with friends and neighbors. You can have folks sign up at HailNoRFK.com to receive updates, opportunities to speak out, and more. 


Charles Allen

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