By Dominique Maria Bonessi posted June 8th, 2019 on wamu.org
Updated 10:12 a.m. June 10
A stretch of land near the old RFK Stadium has gone from being a parking lot to a park.
The D.C. government controls 27 acres of land, sandwiched between the D.C. Armory and the Anacostia River, through a lease with the federal government. Events DC opened the grounds Saturday with a ribbon cutting, food trucks and DC United’s Wayne Rooney. The site — now called The Fields at RFK Campus — has three soccer fields, a playground and an outdoor events venue.
The future of RFK has been the subject of debate for years. The National Park Service has been leasing the site to Events DC, the city’s sports and entertainment authority, with the stipulation that it be used for a stadium, “recreational facilities, open spaces, or public outdoor recreation opportunities,” or similar public uses. Since DC United moved to its new home at Buzzard Point last year, it has largely sat empty.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has made it clear that she wants the Washington Redskins to return to the site. Earlier this year, she worked with team owner Dan Snyder, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the White House to extend the terms of the lease (which currently ends in 2038), but she was ultimately unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation in March to sell the site to D.C.
On Saturday, Artilie Wright, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, watched as his nephew kicked a soccer ball with other small kids on the turf of the new soccer fields.
“It’s nice to come through here and see life instead of a desolate piece of asphalt,” Wright said. “I think this is a great step in the right direction. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Wright wants to make sure residents from all parts of the District feel welcome to use the park.
“It’s a great way to really bridge the gap between the communities,” Wright said. “There will always be an activated athletic space here.”
Previously, residents were concerned about polluted rainwater running directly from the paved lots into the Anacostia River. Greg O’Dell, president of Events DC says the organization has taken measures to mitigate that.
“We have over 400 trees on the site. We have retention ponds,” O’Dell said. “So we have plenty of area for water retention.”
But getting to the site is currently a bit of a challenge. Visitors have to walk or bike from the nearest parking lot or Metro stop. By the fall, O’Dell says, they hope to connect the local roads that lead to the field.
Norton told the crowd that she will continue to fight for more acres from the federal government.
“We must not let this tract of land go unused any longer,” Norton said.
Norton and Bowser say they would like to convert other parts of the asphalt parking lot into recreational space.