Vincent Orange’s “Vision” for the RFK Stadium Site

I first learned of Councilmember (and mayoral candidate) Vincent Orange’s District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013 on November 7, the day it was introduced. The bill requires the Mayor to conduct a study to determine the “economic feasibility, economic impact and costs” of developing a new 100,000 seat superdome, indoor waterpark, soundstage, PGA-level golf course and hotel zone at the RFK Stadium, DC Armory and Langston Golf Course sites. If enacted, the bill requires the study to be completed by Feb. 15, 2015.

Based on media reports, I fully expected B20-563 to be 1-2 pages of legislative text. Instead, the bill is 15 pages long, detailing every pet project Councilmember Orange and others have dreamed up for the site. Here are some examples of what is included.

  • A proposed “hotel zone” would include a minimum of three hotels, adding a combined total of 1000 rooms to the site. The hotel zone would also include a 24/7 spa, fitness and wellness establishment that includes an Olympic size pool, leisure pool, children’s pool and sauna. And don’t forget the “health conscious café open 7 days a week featuring juice and smoothies bar, organic foods and healthy eating options.”
  • Apparently, the more than 1,000 hotel rooms in the hotel zone are not enough, because the bill also calls for another 200-300 room three star hotel to go along with the indoor waterpark resort. The waterpark also includes 15,000 sq. ft. of conference and meeting facilities. I’m not sure why you would build conference and meeting facilities in the waterpark and a pool facility in the hotel zone.
  • The detail for the hotel zone and indoor waterpark pales in comparison to the detail provided on the multimedia soundstage. The soundstage, which apparently would be in the DC Armory, includes everything from a television recording studio and production offices to green rooms and a paint shop.
  • The bill does call for retail on the site, mainly in the “Robert F. Kennedy Domed Stadium Complex” which includes the 100,000 seat stadium, two “nationally recognized” department stores, two nationally recognized family restaurant chains, one nationally recognized chain bar or nightclub, one nationally recognized high end restaurant, one nationally recognized movie theatre, one independently owned restaurant and a beer garden. The bill is silent on whether the beer garden must be nationally recognized.
  • The bill does call for some housing on the site, but it is very vague. There would apparently be affordable housing units for low-income residents and students. It is also unclear as to where the housing would be built.

This is a small sampling of the ridiculous level of detail in the bill (I didn’t even mention the required 3D model). It would be laughable, except five (!) additional councilmembers joined Councilmember Orange in co-introducing the bill – Councilmembers Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans and Graham. This tally is one short of a Council majority.

Apparently, almost half of the DC Council actually thinks it is worth taxpayer dollars to study Councilmember Orange’s dreamland. Why would we build more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms for a stadium that will be primarily used for 10 football games a year? If the idea is to hold more than sporting events at the complex, aren’t we competing with our own taxpayer-funded convention center which is still struggling to attract events? What happens to the DC National Guard when the Armory is turned into a soundstage? Where would the hotels, housing and retail be built since most of the RFK Stadium site sits on a floodplain and under federal lease terms must be used for stadium or recreational use? And why would we fund this study when Mayor Gray has already asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site? (Events DC has already posted a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking a consultant to conduct the study)

Clearly, Councilmember Orange’s plan is not feasible and not in the best interests of the city. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a poorly thought out study, the DC Council should look to fund realistic future uses for the site – uses that serve both residents and visitors. An example is the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park proposal, which aims to turn a portion of the stadium’s north parking lots into recreational fields. Not only is this project feasible, it also responds to a critical need for more recreational field space in the city.

What do you think about Councilmember Orange’s vision for the RFK Stadium site?

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15 Responses to Vincent Orange’s “Vision” for the RFK Stadium Site

  1. dcgent says:

    Can we count the number of ways this violates the current lease on the land with the federal government? For one, doesn’t it preclude housing (hence the reason the Olympic village would end up in Reservation 13 or off the RFK site). Does the feasibility study include finding ways to break that lease? Has anyone examined how much Trump and his minions are donating to Orange–the hotel detail sounds like right out of his PR machine. I hope all ward 6 Council candidates state their position on this travesty of a bill.

  2. Colleen Garibaldi says:

    I agree with you Brian. I’d rather see the money spent on affordable housing and/or put toward infrastructure costs to develop the Hill East Waterfront (old Reservation 13) into a world-class sustainable continuation of our neighborhood.

    Thanks for the info on the mayor’s plan.
    Colleen Garibaldi

  3. […] A thorough analysis of Vincent Orange's superdome/waterpark proposal [Commissioner Brian Flahaven] […]

  4. Sean says:

    Why not work with the Council to create the plan? It’s so easy to cast stones. It looks like you took the time to put together a plan for the north parking lots…that’s great…you should take it a step further and see if it can be implemented with the larger plan. You are upset that there is consensus on the Council. you have to start somewhere and a feasibility study is the right way to go when you are probably talking about several billions of dollars being spent on a public/private partnership.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for your comment Sean. We (Hill East residents) would love to work with the Mayor and Council on a plan for RFK. We actually did work with the city 10 years ago to create the Reservation 13 mixed-use master plan for the site just south of RFK.

      Unfortunately, city officials often move forward with their own ideas for the site without seeking community feedback (see debate about football training facility on Res 13). Before introducing his bill, Councilmember Orange should have shared his ideas with his constituents in Wards 6 & 7. If he had done so, he would have learned of concerns about his ideas and also about the CRYSP proposal. Instead, he moved forward without seeking community feedback.

      I also disagree that there is consensus on the Council for this plan. While 6 Councilmembers introduced this bill, 7 did not sign on or cosponsor. That sounds more like a split than consensus.

      Thanks again for weighing in.

  5. […] complex centering on a rebuilt, 100,000-seat RFK Stadium. But the actual text of the bill, highlighted recently by ANC6B commissioner Brian Flahaven, is even […]

  6. susan says:

    Was this site ever considered for the new FBI headquarters? It seems like it would have been the perfect location, near the metro and the beltway

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment Susan. While there would certainly be enough land for a new FBI HQ, I don’t think this is the best use for the site, particularly given the security requirements needed. Such a building certainly would not help connect the neighborhood to the Anacostia waterfront.

  7. […] complex centering on a rebuilt, 100,000-seat RFK Stadium. But the actual text of the bill, highlighted recently by ANC6B commissioner Brian Flahaven, is even […]

  8. BuildNewFieldsNow! says:

    Sean writes:
    “Why not work with the Council to create the plan? It’s so easy to cast stones. It looks like you took the time to put together a plan for the north parking lots…that’s great…you should take it a step further and see if it can be implemented with the larger plan. You are upset that there is consensus on the Council.”
    The plan for the Capitol Riverside Park has been around for about 2 years now. This “Study” effort just came up because many members of the Ward 6 and 7 community have been advocating for creating this space in the wasteland that is now the North Parking lot. I is vacant, except for a couple of events a year and the weekend flea market.
    Councilmembers who have delayed this popular and practical proposal have come up with a way to oppose the project, without having to explain why and continue to stand in the way of a community-based project,the Capitol Riverside Park, that has a great deal of merit.
    Dreaming about building a new stadium for the Washington Football team has stopped any improvement in that area since they moved to MD in 1996. Why waste more time?
    http://www.capitolriverside.org/

  9. […] out shortly thereafter. Neighborhood commissioner Brian Flahaven did, though, and has published a blog post summing up the details of Orange’s proposal, or as the Washington City Paper calls it in their own blog item, “The 5 Strangest Parts of […]

  10. […] A thorough analysis of Vincent Orange's superdome/waterpark proposal [Commissioner Brian Flahaven] […]

  11. Sean says:

    I’m curious as to why everyone thinks this is a crazy idea.

    Rewind to the DC government agreeing to build the Verizon Center – I’m sure it was considered wacky at the time.

    This plan does not go far enough.

    Why not place a university/trade school in the plan?

    How about a new hospital?

    The soundstage is so we stop losing revenue to other cities.

    You should get your plan for the North Parking lot placed in the mix.

    I don’t think members try to exclude community input, they just know a plan needs to be put in place.

    A public private partnership needs to created to make this economic development project a reality for so many.

    The amount of jobs pre and post construction is probably in the thousands.

    I don’t see anyone else with plans to create thousands of jobs – can someone please point me in the direction of a sitting Councilmember with a plan?

  12. Marilyn White says:

    I like it. I thought a Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales would be nice anchor stores. I like the swimming pools and spa ideas. And I don’t want athletic fields and frankly I think a stadium is a waste of space (even though my family held 3 primo seats at RFK for its entire run with the Washington football team whose name shall not be mentioned). It could really do something for the eastern side of the city to put major retail here. I am not a sophisticated person obviously but it sounds like Mr. Orange has some good ideas to me to bring life to a spot in the city that has long been overlooked.

    • dc51state says:

      Sine the NPS has control of the space and it is designated for a sport-related purpose ONLY it will not allow the retail space that you are in favor of.
      Sorry you are not supporting the athletic fields that mas a great deal of community support behind it. Our young people deserve a place to play; and so do adults, too!

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