On Wed., Feb. 25, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the Committee on Finance and Revenue’s performance oversight hearing for Events DC. My testimony (below) focused on the future of the RFK Stadium site.
Good morning Chairman Evans and members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as vice 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 Boys & Girls Club Building.
I’m here today to provide testimony on our commission’s experience with Events DC and, in particular, our views about the future of a critical piece of land the authority oversees – the RFK Stadium site. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 9-0 during its February 10 meeting with a quorum present. We appreciate Events DC’s efforts to keep our commission and constituents informed about events happening at RFK Stadium, the Armory and the surrounding parking lots. As you know, the site is immediately adjacent to a residential rowhouse neighborhood. Events DC’s quarterly community outreach meetings and frequent event e-mails have been extremely helpful. We particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Erik Moses, Events DC’s senior vice president and managing director, and Theresa DuBois, Events DC’s external affairs manager, to keep our constituents and the commission informed and engaged.
With DC United set to move out of RFK Stadium in the next couple of years, our focus is on potential uses for this valuable site – a waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to Hill East, the health of the Anacostia River, Capitol Hill, and the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. But it appears that some city officials have determined that a new NFL football stadium is the obvious future and best use of the site. You’ve been quoted, Chairman Evans, as saying “There’s nothing else you can do there.”
We strongly disagree. While we understand the lure of the site’s tradition and history, a new football stadium at RFK will bring the city and the neighborhood very little. First, football stadiums are used 10 times a year for games, leaving an empty shell the remainder of the time. Second, since tailgating is part of the football experience, football stadiums are typically surrounded by empty parking lots. At RFK, that would mean the continued separation of the surrounding neighborhood from the Anacostia waterfront. Third, a football stadium will not attract new businesses nor help existing businesses in our neighborhood since NFL owners make money when fans buy their concessions in the stadium itself. If you need an example, when was the last time you went shopping or dining at a local business or restaurant next to FedEx Field?
Instead of solely pining for a new stadium that will bring little, city leaders should be open to other uses for the site. For example, a neighborhood-serving sports complex with recreational fields and/or an outdoor environmental education center that draws upon the waterfront location could be better potential uses for the site. Hill East is in desperate need of more playing fields for youth sports and activities and a sports complex would comply with the terms of the National Park Service lease. An environmental education center could provide youth a positive connection to the Anacostia River while providing the city with a destination for environmental education, sustainability and recreational fun.
Speaking of the NPS lease, why can’t it be changed? Why can’t the city develop a comprehensive plan similar to the National Capital Planning Commission’s 2006 plan that includes significant recreational use and some mixed-use development on portions of the site? Such a plan could be used to lobby Congress to amend the lease and/or transfer the land. That is exactly the strategy the city used 10 years ago to successfully obtain Reservation 13, the 67-acre site that sits immediately south of the RFK site, from the federal government.
We are committed to working with Events DC, city officials and our colleague commissions – ANCs 7D, 7F and 6A – to think creatively about the best future uses for the RFK Stadium site. We understand that Events DC has hired the consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct a study of future uses of the site. While we would prefer that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Office of Planning were leading this effort, we take Events DC at its word that the study will include robust neighborhood engagement and alternatives that do not include a stadium.
One final point. If the city decides to pursue a football stadium on the site once the study is completed, we should remember that the District has and should retain the upper hand in any negotiations. If media reports are correct that Mr. Snyder wants to build a new stadium at RFK, he should not only pay for the stadium but should also pay for the land, infrastructure and taxes associated with the site. He should also be required to build a stadium that is consistent with the city’s vision of the Anacostia waterfront – a waterfront connected to the surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. no surface parking lots). If Mr. Snyder wants taxpayer dollars to subsidize any of these costs or doesn’t agree with this vision, he can go look for a site in Maryland and Virginia, and the District can pursue alternative, better uses for the RFK Stadium land.
Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions.