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Commentary: Can the RFK Campus Support a New NFL Stadium?

by HillNow.com October 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm 7 Comments

RFK Stadium (Photo via Wikimedia/Ben Schumin)

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by Chan Han

Here is a question I do not think anyone has asked as of yet, especially Events DC: What is the current NFL design standards for a stadium today and can the city handle it?

Let me start off by saying that I used to work at a architecture firm that designed football stadiums for several teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings. I can assure you, a standard does exist.

For example, new stadiums must be able to seat between 60,000 and 100,000 people. A minimum of 80 to 100 acres of undisturbed land must be dedicated solely to the stadium itself. No eminent domain, no easements and no wetlands issues must be present. To accommodate the traditional tailgaters, it is preferred to have at least an additional 100 to 120 acres for dedicated parking.

So now you are talking 180 to 220 acres of land for a current, up to date, modern stadium. The RFK site only has 190 acres total, which is on the low end of what the NFL standards for new stadiums demand. The fact that it is mostly wetlands only diminishes the usable amount of land for a stadium.

Now comes the question, do we just renovate RFK? The problem is RFK can only hold 49,000. FedExField can hold 79,000. That’s 30,000 possible season ticket holders unaccounted for, a huge loss in revenue.

The other issue is the age of RFK Stadium. To upgrade the stadium itself will be astronomical. The stadium and all of its utilities will have to be upgraded to meet today’s building codes. Honestly, it will be cheaper to build a new stadium from scratch. The average price for a new stadium today with amenities can range from $700 million to $1.5 billion.

Another question: Has anyone even asked Dan Snyder if he will seriously consider moving back into D.C.? If the owner of the Redskins is not even considering moving back into the city, why are we wasting our time and resources planning for it?

And my last question: Has anyone read the development report made by the National Capital Planning Commission on the RFK Stadium grounds? Most of its findings are very logical and thorough, not to mention, along the lines of what the Kingman Park neighborhood is looking for.

Given all of this info, RFK realistically can no longer be used as a stadium. We should put our efforts into developing a plan which would benefit the neighborhood and the city.

Han is an architect and a contractor, who lives in Kingman Park.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

Photo via Wikimedia/Ben Schumin

  • Sonny Liger

    If RFK is too small for a stadium, the NFL is greedier than I thought.

    • peut-etre pas

      They are greedy, but that’s beside the point. It’s Snyder and the Washington team who wouldn’t want to reduce potential ticket sales by several thousand. Those several thousand could account anywhere from $150k-500k per game (estimating $60-150 per ticket, and you know some of them cost even more).

  • Dude

    The Skins removed more seats this year, they are down to 73-75,000 now. That’s down from 91,704 in 2010. No reason to think they would want to break the 70,000 mark, likely more like 65,000. Also, nobody has ever mentioned refurbishing RFK. All the talk is in a new stadium. Likely retractable roof, so they can host a Super Bowl. As far as parking, M&T/Camden Yards only have 5,000 parking spots combined.

  • Michael

    I am not the biggest fan of a new stadium in this spot but this article is not accurate. I appreciate the tangential experience the author has, but these assumptions on stadium size, required acreage, parking requirements, etc are just that – assumptions – and they happen to be inaccurate. Look at places like the Superdome, which combined with parking takes up one city block in downtown New Orleans, or Soldier Field, which is in the middle of a beautiful city park/museum campus and hardly has any parking to speak of. The requirements for stadiums like the one the Cowboys play in, which incidentally is not in Dallas but in suburban Arlington, are not universal. Urban and suburban settings are what dictate the size of stadiums and their parking or lack thereof.

    • CEP

      Yeah I was thinking the same but the Superdome may not be the best example as it was built 40 years ago. There are more recent NFL stadiums built in downtowns. For example, Ford Field I’m Detroit, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Georgia Dome I’m Atlanta, even M&T in Baltimore.

      There are other factors to consider but I doubt the NFL would have a problem with a new stadium I’m this location

  • Patrick Division

    Interesting viewpoint from the author, but it ignores the only real factor that will determine the future of the RFK space: How much can the developers throw into Muriel’s re-election fund?

    • peut-etre pas

      HA! Unfortunately, you’re totally right. Her entire view on this has seemingly been to continue asking for input, pretending she doesn’t hear any complaints, and then saying she wants a stadium.


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