In case you missed it, Vincent Orange and other District Council members want to commission a study to look into building an enormous, 100,000-seat stadium and recreational complex on the site that currently houses Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Doing so would probably cost between $500 million and $1 billion, and, if recent moves are any indicator, such a deal would likely include hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars going directly into the pockets of a wealthy team owner.
Building another sports arena to replace RFK would also compound previous land-use blunders that the district is still paying for today. The current stadium is almost always empty, and surrounded by a sea of vacant parking lots. There are only a handful of soccer games held at the stadium each year, and it operates at a $1 million loss to the district government. Once the new D.C. United Stadium opens, RFK will be essentially useless. Building another stadium in its place sets us up to be in the same situation down the line, as teams vacate for a newer stadium elsewhere.
Nearly any other use for the land would be an improvement over a stadium. Given the extreme shortage of affordable housing in the district, the best policy would be to auction it off in small parcels, zoned for mixed-use residential development. If built at a density roughly equal to the surrounding neighborhoods, the land could become home for thousands of people while making rent more affordable throughout the district. Doing so would require working with the National Park Service and, perhaps, an act of Congress, but so would the Superdome boondoggle.
Razing RFK and building housing wouldn’t even mean that we won’t have a stadium to enjoy, either. If we don’t waste our own public funds, there are probably nearby suckers in Maryland who will subsidize a stadium for us.
Spending large amounts of public money on a stadium to create economic growth is more becoming of a dying city like Detroit, and doesn’t make sense for Washington. To adapt a recent quote from Councilman Orange: “We’re at a point where we don’t need sports teams. Sports teams need us.”