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?