This morning, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B in opposition to B20-563, the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013 in front of the DC Council’s Committee on Economic Development. Here is ANC 6B’s written testimony:
Good morning Madam Chair and members of the Committee on Economic Development. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the Hill East Waterfront, also known as Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Building.
I’m here today to express ANC 6B’s strong opposition to Bill 20-563, the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 8-0 during its February 11, 2014 meeting with a quorum present.
As you know, B20-563 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.
While we oppose this bill for a number of reasons, let me start with a point on which we and the bill’s co-sponsors do agree: there should be a comprehensive study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site, 190-acres that encompass RFK Stadium, the DC Armory, the Maloof Skate Park and surface parking lots.
However, ANC 6B believes that the best approach to determining future uses at the RFK Stadium site is a community planning process that begins with a blank slate. This is the strategy used by the city and community to develop the master plan for Reservation 13, the 67-acre parcel of land that lies immediately to the south of the RFK site.
As you may know, when Mayor Gray announced plans to move DC United to a new stadium in Southwest, he also directed Events DC, the city’s convention and stadium authority, to oversee a study on future uses of the site. While we are concerned that Events DC will only consider uses for the site that involve a new stadium, at least they are starting with a relatively blank slate and plan to engage the community.
Unfortunately, instead of starting with a blank slate, the 6 co-introducers of B20-563 have begun with the conventional wisdom that a new stadium is the best future use for the site – and then proceeded to surround the new stadium with random pet projects that will add little to no value to our neighborhood and the city as a whole. Our commission and community were not asked by the councilmembers to weigh in on the bill, nor were we engaged by them prior to the its introduction. This is but one of ANC6B’s many objections to B20-563 – seven in total – that I am here to share with this committee.
As I’ve noted, our number one concern is the lack of community engagement in both the drafting of the bill and that envisioned during the period of the feasibility study.
Number two – the bill is duplicative. As I mentioned, Mayor Gray has already asked Events DC to conduct a study of future uses for the site. Why should DC’s hardworking taxpayers foot the bill for a second study before the first has even begun?
Number three – the proposed complex envisioned in the bill does not appear to be well-planned. Why would we build more than 1,000 new hotel rooms for a stadium that would 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? Why prioritize national, corporate restaurant chains and businesses over local, independent DC-owned businesses? These are just a few of a long list of questions that suggest a lack of planning in drafting the bill.
Number four – the city does not need to fund a study to determine that this plan is not feasible. The proposed complex would cost billions in taxpayer dollars with little return to the city. At most, the proposed superdome would host 10-15 events annually. You can’t host the Final Four and Superbowl every year – and a new football stadium is not going to attract the hotels and retail envisioned in the plan.
Number five – the complex lacks neighborhood-serving uses. ANC 6B believes that the RFK site should include uses that serve both visitors and residents. The sponsors in the bill seem more interested in meeting the needs of professional athletes and tourists with their proposed complex.
Number six — the Anacostia waterfront appears to be an afterthought in the plan. Any development on the site should work to connect the surrounding neighborhood to the waterfront, not act as a barrier.
And finally – we are concerned that the real purpose of the bill and study is to delay any positive development on the RFK site. For example, we are eager to see the wasteful RFK surface parking lots turned into something useful, like recreational fields. If this study moves forward, city officials working to preserve the parking lots for a future stadium will use it as an excuse to block any meaningful development in the short term.
For these reasons, we ask the committee to oppose B20-563. Let’s work together on a real, feasible study for the RFK site – one that involves the community and begins with a blank slate.
Thank you and I’d be happy to answer any questions.