D.C. proposes RFK site for new Wizards, Capitals arena, lo, these are the end times

In case you thought it was just Cleveland elected officials who are swallowing whole the line that 20-year-old sports venues are living on borrowed time, no, no, it so is not:

D.C. officials plan to unveil an array of possibilities for the future of the RFK Stadium property Monday night, among them a new 65,000-seat Redskins stadium and a basketball and hockey venue capable of replacing Verizon Center…

Officials also said for the first time that they are considering the 190-acre riverfront property as a possible location for a 20,000-seat arena equipped to serve the Washington Wizards and Capitals.

That’s right: The Verizon Center, opened all the way back in 1997 — dear lord, Seinfeld was still on the air then! — and which has been held up by arenas-as-urban-catalyst believers everywhere as an example of a sports venue that revitalized its surrounding neighborhood, is now marked for death, if not immediately, then certainly by 2027 when the Capitals‘ and Wizards‘ lease runs out. Not that the revitalization was necessarily all it was cracked up to be — much of D.C. has gentrified with or without neighboring arenas, and lots of residents and business owners near the Verizon Center didn’t benefit from any increased economic activity anyway because they were then priced out of the area — but forget about all that now regardless, because it’s now maybe time to put a new arena in some other part of town.

This is the very early stages of the planning process for the RFK site, obviously, and presumably someone just threw in a Wizards/Capitals arena because they figured owner Ted Leonsis would be asking for a new one sometime soon, so why not make it an option? The answer “Because he just built a new one, and he owns it, so he’s not going to move out of town and abandon it and the booming D.C. market just because his lease with himself runs out” apparently never occurred to, you know, I just can’t even. Finish this post yourself, I have to go have a lie down.


20 comments on “D.C. proposes RFK site for new Wizards, Capitals arena, lo, these are the end times

  1. This is what all stadiums & arenas should be built from from now on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staff_(building_material)

  2. C’mon, man. Neil, you know this is just DC trying to manufacture #leverage for their inevitable Redskins negotiations.

  3. I wouldn’t put too much stock into this. Apparently basically they looked at their lease on the land from the NPS and said “let’s brainstorm all the things we could build there that would conform to the lease terms.” It sounds like they came up with a new football stadium, an arena, a concert hall, a water park, playing fields, a public market, etc. etc. It doesn’t mean any of those will get chosen, but I guess they eliminated “giant indoor refrigerated ski slope” which puts Washington one step ahead of Dubai for not doing the dumbest thing possible.

  4. https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/04/04/Production/Daily/A-Section/Images/N-S%20Axis%20Design%20Concept_View%20from%20East%20with%20NFL%20Stadium_Copyright%20OMA_Rendering%20by%20Robota.jpg?uuid=KX1sBvpkEeWA5MOBIU3how

    What happened to the moat? I don’t see it in this render.

  5. It is demoralizing to read this and at the same time read that the Metro is in such disrepair that it may require $1 billion per year to get rehabilitated. How dumb are the folks in DC? They paid 100% for the Nationals stadium, and now they might be able to use the Metro part-time. It would be worse than rape (Neil, I know you hate to see that word) if another dime of public money in DC ever goes for a baseball, football, basketball, or hockey facility. But the probability of that happening is way less than Bryce Harper signing a $400 million contract!

  6. I don’t hate the word “rape” when it refers to, you know, rape.

    If I had to choose between paying for another sports stadium in D.C. and being raped, I think I’d choose the stadium, but YMMV.

  7. @Dave – The moat was the design by the NFL team not the city.

    I’m also not sure how any of this jives with the actual lease that expires in 2032 (or 2034 I cannot remember). None of the redevelopment plans seem to have anyway to deal with that wrinkle.

  8. Wait, “when the lease runs out”? Doesn’t Leonsis own Verizon Center? I just assumed it came with buying the teams.

  9. @Keith – Monumental Sports (which is controlled by Lenios) owns the Verizon Center, but like the new DC United stadium, the underlying land is owned by the District of Columbia. That lease expires in 2027.

    I’m not sure why it’s done that way but it is. Probably a tax dodge or a planned obsolescelease ending even if the building isn’t built by the city so they can claim they didn’t use public funds but then demand a new stadium when the lease expires.

  10. Public stadium cash for us rich guys is a sacred trust. Along with purchasing pols to maintain said trust.

    Waiter, more wine!

  11. The District is making a big push to put a stadium at the site based on the original deal for the land that was loaned by the Federal government for use for a sports arena, meaning that the city will lose the land when the United leave unless they can find another franchise to occupy it. What I’ve never heard any speculation on is what the Feds would do with the land if they took it back. Maybe the better deal for the city is to let the area get developed as a Federal properly, letting the US Government take on the expense. Alternatively the city could negotiate to develop the land for some other purpose, I’m not sure why this location would have a mandate to be used to subsidize pro sports for all of time.

    Moving the Caps and Wizards does seem crazy. The Verizon Center completely transformed the Gallery Place area and it is still the anchor, why mess with that? I was a Bullets plan holder when the new arena opened, that area of the city was completely unused at night (parking was great, right next to the arena on the street for free). There was one bar within a block of the area, the Rock, worst food I’ve ever been served. Now there are bars and restaurants for blocks around. Best deal the city ever made (negotiated by Marion Barry).

    Ideally a deal can be made where the city provides the land and Dan Snyder builds the new Redskins stadium there. Snyder wants to construct something to rival the greatest stadiums in the world so let him give it a shot, particularly since his initial drawings show an attempt to make the stadium area usable on non game days. That location is the single most accessible spot in the city coming from Virginia and Maryland, that is where the most popular team in the city belongs.

  12. Putting a stadium there is a waste of time, space, and money. That area is prime real estate now. Building a new Colosseum there is just foolishness at this point, since there’s really only one tenant who will use the building at this point.

    If the FBI is still looking for a headquarters–put it there. Great Metro connections, reasonably close to the city. It can have the truly transformative effect that the Department of Transportation had on the Navy Yard area.

  13. The FBI isn’t like DOT. They want a security cordon around their new facility which would proclude any sort of neighborhood integration like the DOT building has. Honestly with their requirements the suburbs makes the most sense. Probably away from a Metro Station as well since it would kill the surrounding area of the close in space is basically a fort.

    Or maybe just relocate whole sale down to Quantico might be better.

  14. They could always plop it on top of that new Skins stadium. It would only be slightly less ridiculous than what they allegedly want to build.

  15. The land doesn’t revert generically to “the government”. The land is specifically owned by the National Park Service. Now, of course, the NPS could theoretically transfer it to another government department, but this would probably require an act of Congress.

    Hence why DC is evaluating a whole series of “park-like” options, including, you know, a park.

  16. NPS doesn’t have a general mechanism to “dispose” of land so it would take an act of Congress for them to hand off the land to anyone else. And all they could do is build a park (no “park-like”, just a park).

    The existing structure was was created with the District of Columbia Stadium Act of 1957, and if Congress (i.e. “the government”) doesn’t enact a new act instructing the NPS to play ball, all of the land will be a park.

    DC can evaluate anything it wants, but barring legislation, it’s just a wasting everyone’s time.

  17. I’m way more concerned that “new arena for Leonsis” is on anybody’s wish list in D.C. than anything about what happens to the RFK site in particular.

  18. Neil: The point is no one said a new stadium for Leonsis was on anyone’s wish list. The city lease of the land from the NPS stipulates it must be used for “stadium purposes, providing recreational facilities, open space, or public outdoor recreation opportunities or for other similar public purposes.” They’re simply brainstorming all the things that could fulfill that lease.

    In a normal city in an actual state the debate would be between a park, a new football stadium, and some sort of mixed-use development that takes advantage of the good link to Metro (but unfortunately is in a flood plain). However, needless to say Washington isn’t a normal city .

  19. They didn’t put “new D.C. United stadium” on their options list. By 2027 that place will be almost ten years old!

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