At 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 29th Mayor Muriel Bowser joined public officials and dignitaries in lifting a symbolic shovel to mark the beginning of work on three multi-purpose fields on the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium Campus grounds.
Bowser was joined by Councilmembers Vince Gray (Ward 7-D), Charles Allen (Ward 6-D), Jack Evans (Ward 2-D), President and CEO of Events DC Gregory O’Dell and Chairman of Events DC Board of Directors Max Brown.
The groundbreaking celebrates the beginning of the short-term plan to reimagine the 190-acre campus. The plans will transform nearly 27 acres of asphalt into three new state-of-the-art artificial turf fields with community amenities.
A New Connection
The three multi-purpose recreational and community playing fields will be made of artificial turf and will be available to the public during day and evening hours. The layout includes one youth soccer field, two baseball diamonds, two full soccer fields and two lacrosse fields with bleacher seating for approximately 300 people.
In addition, there will be a picnic area and playground, as well as a 6,000-square-foot pavilion with food and beverage stations and restrooms with changing areas. The fields represent a new connection for the Campus to the Anacostia River and surrounding communities.
The fields are the first of the five short-term program elements designed to of restoring the Campus as one of the District’s original sports and entertainment corridors in the city. The short-term plans contain five components: the multipurpose fields, a market hall, a sports and recreation complex, pedestrian bridges connecting the west and east banks of the Anacostia River to Heritage and Kingman Islands and the RFK Democracy Center, a planned new memorial site for Robert F. Kennedy, for whom the stadium is named.
The redeveloped site will provide green space and landscaping in the area and will use bioretention to prevent run-off to the river. Investments in transportation infrastructure surrounding the fields will include building walking and bicycle paths in addition to a dedicated parking site.
‘A New Life’
“Today’s groundbreaking signifies the beginning of the construction for the RFK Campus redevelopment short-term project with three multi-purpose fields. The multi-purpose fields are the first of five short-term program elements planned for the 190-acre Campus,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer. “During our planning, the community provided us with great input, and we thought hard about how people would interact and connect here.”
“These fields will support youth as well as adults, and inspire not just our residents, but become a beacon for the region,” Dell added.
In comments before the event, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) emphasized the years of community advocacy and work that had taken the space to the moment of groundbreaking. “Seven years ago, I met with neighbors who had a vision for transforming the parking lots at RFK – from an ocean of asphalt to fields and greenspaces that could better serve DC neighborhoods,” he said. “And I’ve fought for it ever since.”
“An entire generation of Washingtonians has grown up with largely empty parking lots dominating a key part of the city along the Anacostia River,” he said. “As we’ve seen, when you build an NFL stadium, it means a whole bunch of parking lots that are only used eight days a year. But today, we change that history and begin a new life for this corner of our city.”
Rejuvenating Youth Sports
Councilmember Gray also thanked all those that had worked to transform the property, including O’Dell and the councilmembers present.
Noting the history of the professional teams that had called the stadium home, Gray said that he looked forward to the ways that the three new multi-purpose fields could help rejuvenate youth sports in the District.
“Soccer is a growing, growing endeavor in the District of Columbia, and we’re going to see more young people have an opportunity to play soccer here,” said Gray.
Referencing his own background as a baseball player and the success of the Mamie Johnson Little League team, Gray said the fields would help nurture more homegrown talent.
Gray said he looked forward to opening day, “Maybe I can still throw a ball,” he joked, “get out and throw one the first day that the fields open.”
Having it All
At the groundbreaking, Mayor Bowser reiterated her Administration’s desire for the federal government to either transfer the RFK campus to the District or to extend the lease with the removal of restrictions on future use.
“The community has waited a long time to see this land put to good use, and today, we are all proud to get this project started,” said Mayor Bowser. “When these fields are complete, this will be the community space our residents deserve. Here at RFK, Washingtonians will have it all – the amenities of a big city, access to a thriving waterfront, and fantastic outdoor fields and play space.”
Later Wednesday, at an afternoon ‘Welcome Home Luncheon’ for the Washington NFL team, Washington City Paper reported that Bowser, using the team’s name, told a crowd that included team president Bruce Allen and DC Councilmembers to ‘bring it home.” A representative from the Mayor’s office later told the paper that the Mayor believes the Washington team belongs in the District, and that although there are no plans, the Mayor wants the team back.
Events DC will manage the multipurpose fields in collaboration with an operator for local scheduling and maintenance assistance. The estimated total cost for the fields is $32M.
Construction on the multi-purpose recreational fields will begin in September 2018 and the fields are estimated to open for play in March 2019.