- Congressional Cemetery is hosting the Annual Pride 5K run tomorrow (Fri., June 6) at 7 pm. While the race is sold out, you can still volunteer by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Canal Park’s Thursday Movie Series kicks off tonight (June 5) with “The Sandlot” at sundown (8:45 pm). Canal Park is located at 200 M Street SE.
- Be sure to check out the One City Youth Truck Touch event this Sat., June 7, 9 am – 2 pm in RFK Parking Lot 7.
- Residents of the 700 and 800 blocks of Kentucky Ave SE are hosting a block party this Sat., June 7 beginning at 3:30 pm.
- Councilmember Tommy Wells will be hosting Ward 6 Family Day on Sat., June 21, 1 pm – 5 pm at Eliot-Hine Middle School (1830 Constitution Ave NE).
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.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the DC Council’s Committee on Economic Development will hold a hearing on Bill 20-563, the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013. If enacted, this bill would require 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.
As I’ve detailed in a previous post, this is a really bad bill. Instead of outlining a thoughtful, open planning process that involves the community in determining future uses for the RFK Stadium site, B20-563 begins with the conventional wisdom (a new stadium to replace the old one) and surrounds it with a random grab bag of pet projects that will do little for the neighborhood and city.
Unfortunately, six Councilmembers (Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans, Graham and Orange) co-introduced the bill, including three of the five members who currently sit on the Committee on Economic Development. The co-introducers need only one additional vote to get a majority on the full Council. We need to make it clear that this bill did not involve community input and lacks support in the neighborhood.
Please take a moment today to e-mail to the members of the Committee on Economic Development and urge them to oppose B20-563. Be sure to copy Robert Hawkins who staffs the committee for Chairperson Bowser. And make sure you ask that your statement be submitted for the record.
Here are the e-mails:
- Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), chair, email@example.com
- Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), email@example.com
- Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), email@example.com
- Robert Hawkins, committee staff, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also contact Councilmember offices by phone.
Finally, you can watch the hearing (and all Council hearings) by visiting the DC Council website. The hearing will be at 10 am in Room 120. I plan to testify in opposition on behalf of ANC 6B.
Thanks for your help!
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?
We had a nice turnout (30-40 people) at the Nov. 13 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting on the future of the RFK Stadium site. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:
- Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director at Events DC, provided a brief overview of the organization, their events and the venues they manage on the RFK site – RFK Stadium, DC Armory, Maloof Skate Park and the Festival Grounds (aka parking lots). View the Events DC presentation (pdf).
- With DC United set to move to a new stadium in Southwest, Mayor Gray has asked Events DC to oversee a study of highest and best use options for the RFK site. According to Moses, the options “must be consistent with the site’s ground lease with the federal government and Events DC’s mission.” The lease calls for the land to be used for a stadium, recreational uses, open space and “other similar public purposes.”
- Sometime in the next two weeks, Events DC will issue an Request for Expressions of Interest for a consultant to formally conduct the study. Moses said they would like to have a consulting firm selected by spring 2014.
- Moses mentioned that DC United would like to be in a new stadium by 2016 but there is still uncertainty as to when the team will vacate RFK Stadium. The new stadium deal still needs approval of the DC Council.
- When asked whether Events DC would push for a particular use like a new stadium, Moses replied that the organization is “agnostic.” He did reiterate that potential uses must be consistent with the Events DC mission (“There will be no office buildings on the site.”)
- I asked Moses whether Events DC is involved with the group organizing a DC bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Moses replied that Events DC is not formally involved with the group, but he expects the consultant to consider the possibility of hosting the Olympics when considering options for the site. Moses also noted that city leaders have not yet formally endorsed a bid for the 2024 Olympics.
- Moses said it was unlikely that Events DC would seek to urge Congress to change the terms of the ground lease or transfer the land to DC, noting that either strategy would take years of negotiation.
- When asked about community engagement, Moses said that Events DC is committed to engaging and seeking feedback from the surrounding community and other key stakeholders during the study.
- After Moses concluded his presentation, Bob Coomber provided an overview of the proposed Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park to replace the north parking lots at RFK Stadium. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and At-Large Councilmember David Grosso have introduced a resolution that the city should explore conversion of the parking lots into recreational space. The fields and green space would be constructed over the existing asphalt and would fulfill a need for sports and recreational fields in Hill East.
- CRYSP’s presentation included how their proposal would fit with potential future uses of the site, including a new football stadium, Olympics and the National Capitol Planning Commission’s vision (pdf) of a mixed use recreational/cultural space. You can view the full presentation on the CRYSP website.
- Staff from Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange attended the meeting and provided brief remarks. Gene Fisher, who staffs the DC Council’s Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for Councilmember Orange, briefly discussed the Councilmember’s bill to require the city to conduct a feasibility study of a potential 100,000 seat superdome, indoor water park, soundstage, hotel zone and an upgraded Langston Golf Course. Task force members expressed concern about Councilmember Orange’s lack of outreach to the community prior to the bill’s introduction (I plan to post some additional thoughts on Councilmember Orange’s bill soon).
- The task force made a recommendation that ANC 6B send a letter to Events DC thanking them for the presentation and reinforcing the need to seek community feedback and input throughout the study period. The task force also suggested that the commission urge Events DC and their consultant to seek neighborhood serving uses for the site, uses that would bring residents to the site 7 days a week and not just for special events. ANC 6B will consider the recommendation at its next regular meeting on Tues., Dec. 10.
I’ve previously posted my thoughts on the future of RFK and plan to post some additional thoughts in the coming days.
If you attended the meeting, please post your comments, thoughts or anything I missed below. A big thanks to our presenters, community members and task force members for their participation. And a special thanks to the folks at St. Coletta of Greater Washington for hosting the meeting.