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|Former names||District of Columbia Stadium
|Address||2400 East Capitol Street SE|
|Public transit||Washington Metro
|Owner||District of Columbia|
Football or Soccer:
20,000 (2012-2017) (MLS)
|Field size||Pitch size: 110 by 72 yards (100.6 m × 65.8 m)
Left field: 335 ft (102 m)
Left-center: 380 ft (116 m)
Center field: 410 ft (125 m)
Right-center: 380 ft (116 m)
Right field: 335 ft (102 m)
Backstop: 54 ft (16 m)
|Surface||TifGrand Bermuda Grass (Prescription Athletic Turf)|
|Broke ground||July 8, 1960|
|Opened||October 1, 1961
57 years ago
|Construction cost||$24 million
($197 million in 2017 dollars)
|Architect||George Leighton Dahl, Architects and Engineers, Inc.|
|Structural engineer||Osborn Engineering Company|
|Services engineer||Ewin Engineering Associates|
|General contractor||McCloskey and Co.|
|Washington Redskins (NFL) (1961-1996)
Geo. Washington Colonials (NCAA) (1961-1966)
Washington Senators (II) (MLB) (1962-1971)
Howard Bison (NCAA) (1974-1976)
Washington Whips (USA / NASL) (1967-1968)
Washington Diplomats (NASL) (1974, 1977-1981);(ASL) (1988-1989);(APSL) (1990)
Team America (NASL) (1983)
Washington Federals (USFL) (1983-1984)
D.C. United (MLS) (1996-2017)
Washington Freedom (WUSA) (2001-2003)
Washington Nationals (II) (MLB) (2005-2007)
Military Bowl (NCAA) (2008-2012)
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (commonly known as RFK Stadium, originally District of Columbia Stadium) is a multi-purpose stadium in the eastern United States in Washington, D.C., located about two miles (3 km) due east of the U.S. Capitol building, near the west bank of the Anacostia River and adjacent to the D.C. Armory.
Opened in 1961, RFK Stadium was home to an NFL team, two Major League Baseball teams, five professional soccer teams, two college football teams, a bowl game, and a USFL team. It has hosted five NFC Championship games, two MLB All-Star Games, men's and women's World Cup matches, nine men's and women's first-round soccer games of the 1996 Olympics, three MLS Cup matches, two MLS All-Star games and numerous American friendlies and World Cup qualifying matches. It has also hosted college football, college soccer, baseball exhibitions, boxing matches, a cycling race, a Le Mans auto race, marathons, and dozens of major concerts and events.
RFK was one of the first major stadiums designed specifically as a multi-sport facility for both baseball and football. Although there were stadiums that served this purpose before, such as Cleveland Stadium (1931) and Baltimore's Memorial Stadium (1950), RFK was one of the first to employ what became known as the circular "cookie-cutter" design.
It is owned and operated by Events DC (the successor agency to the DC Armory Board), a quasi-public organization affiliated with the city government under a long-term lease from the National Park Service, which owns the land; the lease expires in 2038.
The idea of a stadium on the west side of the Anacostia, along the axis of East Capitol Street went back to 1932 when the Roosevelt Memorial Association (RMA) proposed a National Stadium for the site and the Allied Architects, a group of local architects organized in 1925 to secure large-scale projects from the government, made designs for it. A "National Stadium" in Washington was an idea that had been pursued since 1916, when Congressman George Hulbert of New York proposed the construction of a 50,000-seat stadium at East Potomac Park for the purpose of attracting the 1920 Olympics. It was also thought that such a stadium could attract Davis Cup tennis matches, polo tournaments, and the annual Army-Navy football game. A later effort by DC Director of Public Buildings and Parks Ulysses S. Grant III and Congressman Hamilton Fish of New York sought to turn the National Stadium into a 100,000-seat memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, suitable for hosting inaugurations, possibly on the National Mall or Theodore Roosevelt Island. This attracted the attention of the RMA, which suggested the East Capital location. This would allow the Lincoln Memorial, then under construction west of the Capitol, and the Roosevelt memorial to become bookend monuments to the two great Republican presidents. The effort lost steam when Congress chose not to fund the stadium in time to move the 1932 Olympics from Los Angeles.
The idea of a stadium began to pick up steam[clarification needed] in 1938, when Senator Robert Reynolds of North Carolina pushed for the creation of a municipal outdoor stadium within the District of Columbia, citing the "fact that America is the only major country not possessing a stadium with facilities to accommodate the Olympic Games." The following year a model of the proposed stadium, to be located near the current site of RFK Stadium, was presented to the public. A few years later, on December 20, 1944, Congress created a nine-man National Memorial Stadium Commission to study the idea. They intended the stadium to be a memorial to the veterans of both World Wars. The commission wrote a report recommending that a 100,000-seat stadium be built near the site of RFK in time for the 1948 Olympics, but it was never able to get funding. By the early 1950s, the commission had numerous vacancies and Congress members were proposing legislation to disband it.
Ignored in the early 1950s, a new stadium finally began to draw interest in 1954. Congressman Charles R. Howell of New Jersey proposed new legislation to build a stadium, again with hopes of attracting the Olympics. He pushed for a report, completed in 1956 by the National Capital Planning Commission entitled "Preliminary Report on Sites for National Memorial Stadium", which identified the "East Capitol Site" to be used for the stadium. In September 1957, "The District of Columbia Stadium Act" was introduced and authorized a 50,000-seat stadium to be used by the Senators and Redskins at the Armory site. It was signed into law by President Eisenhower on July 29, 1958, with an estimated cost of $7.5 to $8.6 million. From there things went quickly and the lease for the stadium was signed by the D.C. Armory Board and the Department of the Interior on December 12, 1958. The stadium, the first major multisport facility built for both football and baseball, was designed by George Dahl, Ewin Engineering Associates, and Osborn Engineering. Groundbreaking for the venue was in 1960 on July 8, and construction proceeded over the following 14 months. The existing venue for baseball (and football) in Washington was Griffith Stadium, about four miles (6 km) northwest.
While Redskins' owner George Preston Marshall was pleased with the stadium, Senators' owner Calvin Griffith was not. It wasn't where he wanted it to be (in Northwest) and he'd have to pay rent and let others run the parking and concessions. Furthermore, the Senators' attendance figures had suffered after the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and Griffith preferred the demographics and profit potential of the Minnesota market. Years later in a speech to Minnesota businessmen in the 1970s, Griffith said, "You only have 15,000 blacks here". So in 1960, when Major League Baseball granted the city of Minneapolis an expansion team, Griffith proposed that he be allowed to move his team to Minneapolis-Saint Paul and give the expansion team to Washington. Upon league approval, the team moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season and Washington fielded a "new Senators" team, entering the junior circuit in 1961 with the Los Angeles Angels.
The stadium opened 57 years ago in autumn 1961 as District of Columbia Stadium (often shortened to D.C. Stadium); its first official event was an NFL regular season game on October 1, ten days after the final MLB baseball game at Griffith Stadium. The new venue opened for football even though construction wasn't completed until the following spring. That day, the Redskins lost to the New York Giants before 36,767 fans, including President John F. Kennedy. This was slightly more than the attendance record at Griffith Stadium (36,591 on October 26, 1947, vs the Bears). The following Saturday, at a college football game called the "Dedication Game", the stadium was dedicated on October 7. George Washington became the first home team to win at the stadium with a defeat of VMI. Its first sell-out came on November 23, 1961, for the first of the annual Thanksgiving Day high school football games between the public school champion, Eastern, and the Catholic school champion, St. John's, which was won by Eastern,
The first major league baseball game was on April 9, 1962 (after two exhibition games against the Pirates had been cancelled). President Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch in front of 44,383 fans who watched the Senators defeat the Detroit Tigers and shortstop Bob Johnson hit the first The previous baseball record was 38,701 at Griffith Stadium on October 11, 1925, at the fourth game of the World Series. The attendance figure was the largest ever for a professional sports event in Washington. The previous largest opening day figure was 31,728 (April 19, 1948).
When it opened, D.C. Stadium hosted the Redskins, Senators, and the GWU Colonial football team, all of whom had previously used Griffith Stadium. The Colonials disbanded their football team after the 1966 season, and the Senators left in the fall of 1971 for and became the Texas Rangers in Arlington in 1972.
From 1961 to 1963, D.C. Stadium hosted the annual City Title game, matching the D.C. public school champion and the winner of the area's premier Catholic league, played before capacity crowds on Thanksgiving Day. The 1963 game between St. John's, a predominantly white school in Northwest D.C., and Eastern, a majority black school just blocks from the stadium, ended in a racially motivated riot, only three days after the funeral of President Kennedy. The City Title game for 1964 was cancelled and hasn't been played since.
In 1964, the stadium emerged as an element in the Bobby Baker bribery scandal. Don B. Reynolds, a Maryland insurance businessman, made a statement in August 1964 which he claimed that Matthew McCloskey, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and Kennedy's ambassador to Ireland, paid a $25,000 kickback through Reynolds and at the instruction of Baker to the Kennedy-Johnson campaign as payback for the stadium construction contract. Though Baker later went to jail for tax fraud, and the FBI investigated the awarding of the stadium contract, McClosley was never charged.
The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated in Los Angeles seven months earlier. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration. The dedication ceremony at the stadium was held several months later on June 7.
The Senators' final game was at RFK on Thursday night, September 30, 1971, with less than 15,000 in attendance. Rains from Hurricane Ginger threatened cancellation, but the game was played. Fan favorite Frank "Hondo" Howard hit a home run (RFK's last until 2005) in the sixth inning to spark a four-run rally to tie the game; the Senators scored two more in the eighth to go up but the game was forfeited to the Yankees after unruly fans stormed the field with two outs in the top of the ninth. There were many subsequent efforts to bring baseball back to RFK, including an attempt to attract the San Diego Padres in 1973, and a plan to have the nearby Baltimore Orioles play eleven home games there in 1976, but none came to fruition. The former was derailed by lease issues with the city in San Diego, and the latter was shot down by commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who wanted to bring one of four expansion teams instead. The expansion for 1977 was later reduced to two teams, Toronto and Seattle, and the next wasn't until 1993.
For much of the 1970s and 1980s, RFK was primarily known as the home of the Redskins, where they played during all three of their Super Bowl championship seasons; though it also hosted several briefly-lived professional soccer teams and in 1983-1984 the Washington Federals of the USFL. In 1980, it hosted the Soccer Bowl, the championship game of the NASL.
Major changes to the stadium came in 1996. Following the success of hosting matches in the 1994 World Cup and 1996 Summer Olympics, RFK became home to one of the charter teams of the new Major League Soccer. On April 20, 1996 it played host to the first home match of D.C. United, a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy.
However, later that year the stadium would host the Redskins' last home game in Washington, DC. After nearly a decade of negotiating for a new stadium with Mayors Sharon Pratt Kelly and Marion Barry, abandoning them in 1992 and 1993 in search of a suburban site and then having a 1994 agreement fall apart in the face of neighborhood complaints, environmental concerns and a dispute in Congress (over what some members viewed as the team's racially insensitive name and the use of federal land for private profit), Jack Kent Cooke decided to move his team to Maryland. On December 22, 1996, the Redskins won their last game at RFK Stadium 37-10 over the Dallas Cowboys, the same team they beat in their first win in the stadium back in 1961, before 65,454, the largest football crowd in stadium history. The Redskins then moved east to the brand new FedExField in suburban Maryland in 1997 leaving D.C. United as the stadium's only major tenant for much of the next decade, though from 2001 to 2003 they would be joined by the Washington Freedom of the short-lived Women's United Soccer Association.
After hosting 16 exhibition games since the Senators left, baseball returned to RFK on a temporary basis in 2005. That year the National League's newly renamed Washington Nationals made it their home while a new permanent home, Nationals Park, was constructed. On April 14, 2005, before a crowd of 45,496 including President Bush and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, the Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 victory in their first game at RFK. President Bush, formerly a part-owner of the Texas Rangers (the former Senators), threw out the first pitch becoming the last president, and the first since Richard Nixon, to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a home opener in RFK Stadium. The last MLB game at RFK, a 5-3 Nationals win over the Phillies, was played on September 23, 2007 and in 2008 the Nationals moved to their new stadium south of the Capitol.
In 2008, RFK was once again primarily the host of D.C. United, though it also hosted a college football bowl game, the Military Bowl, from 2008 to 2012, before it moved in 2013 to in Annapolis, Maryland. On July 25, 2013, the District of Columbia and D.C. United announced a tentative deal to build a $300 million, 20,000-25,000 seat stadium at Buzzard Point. Groundbreaking on the new soccer stadium, Audi Field, occurred in February 2017 and on October 22, 2017 RFK hosted its last MLS match, a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
The stadium was opened in October 1961 as the District of Columbia Stadium, but the media quickly shortened that to D.C. Stadium and sometimes, in the early days, as "Washington Stadium". On January 18, 1969, in the last days of the Johnson Administration, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall announced that the stadium would be renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, in honor of the late Senator and presidential candidate, who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The official renaming ceremony was held but by then many had already been referring to it as "RFK Stadium" or simply "RFK". Coincidentally, following the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Armory Board had directed that the stadium be renamed for him, but the plan lost steam when a few weeks later the Philadelphia city council passed a bill renaming Philadelphia Stadium as "John F. Kennedy Stadium".
Robert Kennedy was not without connection to the stadium; as attorney general in the early 1960s, his Justice Department played a role in the racial integration of the Redskins. Along with Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players. His brother, President John F. Kennedy attended the first event there and threw out the first pitch. In 2008, a nearby bridge was renamed for Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's wife.
On April 14, 2005, just before the Nationals' home opener, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission announced an agreement with the Department of Defense under which the military would pay the city about $6 million for naming rights and the right to place recruiting kiosks and signage in the stadium. In return, the stadium would be dubbed "Armed Forces Field at RFK Stadium". This plan was dropped within days, however, after several prominent members of Congress questioned the use of public funds for a stadium sponsorship.
Similar proposals to sell the naming rights to the National Guard, ProFunds (a Bethesda, Maryland investment company), and Sony were all potential names in 2005 and 2006, but no agreement was ever finalized.
The Redskins' first game in D.C. Stadium was its first event, a 24-21 loss to the New York Giants on October 1, 1961. The first win in the stadium came at the end of the season on December 17, over its future archival, the struggling second-year Dallas Cowboys. It was Washington's only win in a dismal season. The Redskins played 266 regular season games at RFK, compiling a 173-102-3 (.628) record, including an impressive record in the playoffs.
In its twelfth season, RFK saw its first pro football playoff game on Christmas Eve 1972, a 16-3 win over the Green Bay Packers. It was the first postseason game in the city in three decades, since the NFL championship game victory in 1942. The stadium hosted the NFC Championship Game five times (1972, 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1991), 2nd only to Candlestick Park, and the Redskins won them all. They're the only team to win five NFC titles at the same stadium. In the Super Bowls that followed, Washington won three (XVII, XXII, XXVI) of the five.
D.C. United of Major League Soccer played nearly 450 matches at RFK Stadium from the team's debut in 1996 until 2017, when they moved to a new stadium. During that time, RFK hosted three MLS Cup finals, including the 1997 match won by D.C. United. With its new stadium, Audi Field, due to open on July 14, 2018, D.C. United played its final game at RFK on October 22, 2017, completing 22 seasons at the stadium, during which the team won four league titles. At the time, RFK Stadium was the longest-used stadium in MLS and the only one left from the league's debut season. When they shared the stadium with the Nationals from 2005 to 2007, there was criticism regarding problems with the playing surface and even the dimensions of the field that resulted from baseball use. D.C. United?s departure left RFK Stadium with no professional sports team as a tenant, however after moving to Audi Field, D.C. United will continue to use the outer practice fields at RFK Stadium for training and will lease the locker rooms and basement space at RFK.
The expansion Washington Senators of the American League played at RFK Stadium from 1962 through 1971. They played their first season in 1961 at Griffith Stadium, now the site of the medical center for Howard University.
In its ten seasons as the Senators' home field, RFK Stadium was known as a hitters' park, aided by the stagnant heat (and humidity) of Washington summers. Slugger Frank Howard, (6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), 255 lb (116 kg)), hit a number of tape-measure home runs in his career, a few of which landed in the center field area of the upper deck. The seats he hit with his home runs are painted white, rather than the gold of the rest of the upper deck. Left fielder Howard came to the Senators from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. He also hit the Senators? last homer, in the sixth inning at RFK on September 30, 1971. With two outs in the top of the ninth, a fan riot turned a 7-5 Senators lead over the New York Yankees into a 9-0 forfeit loss, the first in the majors in 17 years.
The new Senators' only winning season came in 1969 at and they never made the postseason. They had an unimpressive home record at RFK of but they had the most wins by any team, as well as losses. The stadium hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1962 (first of two) and 1969, both won by the visiting National League. President Kennedy threw out the first ball at the 1962 game, and Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all attended games there. President Johnson was scheduled to throw out the first pitch in 1968, but the opening game was delayed following the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., so Vice President Hubert Humphrey got the privilege. President Nixon was to throw out the first ball at the 1969 game, which celebrated baseball's centennial, but it was postponed due to rain and so Nixon missed it to instead greet the Apollo 11 astronauts after splashdown. Instead, Vice President Spiro Agnew filled in.
Between 1974 and 1990, three soccer teams played at RFK using the name Washington Diplomats. In 1974, two Maryland businessmen purchased the rights to the Baltimore Bays of the semi-professional American Soccer League, moved the team to the District and renamed it the Washington Diplomats. They signed a lease agreement to play home matches at RFK Stadium where they calculated they needed to attract an average of 12,000 spectators to the 56,000-seat stadium just to break even. Despite white flight to the suburbs, owners thought that recent completion of the Beltway, the stadium's 12,000 parking spaces, and future completion of a stadium Metro station would facilitate high attendance. Games were scheduled for Saturday and prices were set low. The Diplomats inaugural game was on May 4 with an encouraging attendance of 10,175; Mayor Walter Washington ceremonially kicked off the game, but the Dips lost 5-1 to the defending NASL champion Philadelphia Atoms. Attendance dropped off over the course of the season.
In 1975, the Diplomats were informed that the recently installed natural turf at RFK would not be ready for opening day, so they scheduled their first two home games that season for W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. After the games attracted more than 10,000 fans each, the Diplomats moved most of their home games to Woodson, but then moved the last five back to RFK once soccer superstar Pelé was added to the roster of the New York Cosmos. Pelé was so popular that the 1975 Cosmos-Diplomats match broke the NASL attendance record at 35,620. Despite the success of the Cosmos game, attendance quickly dropped off again and prior to the 1976 season the Diplomats announced that they scheduled every home game, except the one against the Cosmos, at Woodson. During the season, they also moved that game to Woodson.
After averaging 5,963 at Woodson, the Diplomats decided to ramp up their marketing and move back to RFK in 1977. Despite changes to everything from uniforms to the cheerleaders, the team's disappointing on-the-field performance hurt attendance (a ~31,000 fan game against Pelé and the Cosmos notwithstanding). In 1978, attendance continued to fall, even though the Dips made the playoffs. Despite success on the field during the 1978 and 1979 seasons (including a franchise-best 19 wins in '79) and a negligible amount of revenue from "indoor Dips" games at the D.C. Armory during the offseason, the franchise continued to suffer significant financial losses.
In 1980, they signed Dutch international superstar Johan Cruyff, the Pelé of the Potomac, from the Los Angeles Aztecs in the hopes of stemming the financial losses. Needing 20,000 fans per game to break even, they managed to attract 24,000 for the opener and a District record 53,351 for the game against the Pele-less Cosmos (the fifth-largest soccer crowd at RFK ever), but the team failed to break-even financially. After racking up debts of $5 million, the first incarnation of the Dips folded.
Three months later, the Detroit Express announced a move to D.C. for 1981, and that they would take on the Diplomats name. They also had trouble attracting fans; and soon folded. The Diplomats of the NASL, despite their limited success on the field, managed to rack up an impressive 60-29 (.674) record at RFK Stadium, and were in the playoffs.
In 1987, a new soccer team, also called the Washington Diplomats, was formed. They played at RFK, and sometimes at the RFK auxiliary field, for three seasons as part of the ASL and then the APSL. They won the ASL Championship in 1988, but still often played in front of fewer than 1000 fans. In 1990 they finished last in the Southern Division of the APSL East, were unable to pay the rent at RFK and folded in October 1990.
In addition to the Redskins and the Senators the other team to move from Griffith Stadium to D.C. Stadium was the George Washington University Colonials college football team. The stadium was dedicated during the October 7, 1961 game against VMI, the first college football game at the stadium, which GWU won 30-6. The Colonials were forced to play their first three games of the season on the road to allow the stadium to be completed. In following years, because the Senators had priority, GWU waited until October (when baseball season was over) to schedule games at D.C. Stadium. From 1961 to 1964, they played road games in September, and in 1965 and 1966 they played at high school stadiums in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia.
The Colonials were only a few years removed from their best season, the 1956 Sun Bowl championship season where they went 8-1 and finished ranked #17 in the nation, but they had no real success at D.C. Stadium. GWU was 22-35 (.386) during its D.C. Stadium years and never posted a winning record. The Colonials were 11-13 at D.C. Stadium, facing off against Army twice and against a Liberty Bowl-bound West Virginia in 1964 (all losses). Perhaps their biggest win was the 1964 upset of Villanova, which came to Washington with a 6-1 record. Sophomore quarterback Garry Lyle, the school's last NFL draftee, led the Colonials to a
After the season was over, GW President Dr. Lloyd H. Elliott Chose to reevaluated GW's football program. On December 19, 1966, head coach Jim Camp, who had just been named conference coach of the year, resigned citing the uncertainty caused by the school's intention to re-evaluate the football program as his reason. The next day, a member of the Board of Trustees announced that the school would drop football. On January 19, 1967, the Board of Trustees made it official, and voted to end the football program to focus on basketball. GW decided to use the football program's funding to build a new field house for the basketball team. Poor game attendance and the expense of the program, estimated at $254,000 during the 1966 season, contributed to the decision. A former GW player, Harry Ledford, believed that most people were unwilling to commute into Washington, D.C., which did not have metrorail at the time, on Friday nights to D.C. Stadium, which was perceived as an unsafe area. Additionally, Maryland and Virginia were nationally competitive teams that drew potential suburban spectators away from GW.
Originally the Montreal Expos for 36 years, the Washington Nationals of the National League played their first three seasons (2005-2007) at RFK, then moved to Nationals Park in 2008. While the Nationals played at RFK, it was the fourth-oldest active stadium in the majors, behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium.
Unlike during the Senators era, RFK was known as a pitchers' park while the Nationals played there. While Howard hit at least 44 home runs for three straight seasons (1968-70), the 2005 Nationals had only one hitter with more than 15 home runs, José Guillén with 24. However, in his lone season with the team in 2006, Alfonso Soriano hit 46 home runs.
Like the Senators though, the Nationals did not find much success during their years at RFK, as they failed to make the playoffs, or post a winning record, all three years.
No team has a longer history with RFK Stadium than the Howard Bison football team, who played there 42 times over 46 years. Between their first game in 1970 and last in 2016, they had a 22-17-3 (.560) record, winning more games at RFK than any other college football program.
Looking to play on a bigger stage than Howard Stadium allowed, they began scheduling games at RFK. Howard's first game at RFK was a 24-7 victory over Fisk on October 24, 1970. From 1974 to 1976, Howard played all but one of their home games at RFK and in 1977 they played half their home games there. After the 1977 season they returned to Howard Stadium, but continued to play their annual homecoming game at RFK Stadium through the 1985 season.
After the 1985 season, Howard Stadium was refurbished, and renamed, and for the next 7 years Howard played all of their home games there.
They ended their first drought with a return in 1992 for a game against Bowie State that was marked by taunting and a game-ending scuffle. From 1993 to 1999 Howard played at least one game a year at RFK including the Greater Washington Urban League Classic, at one point called the Hampton-Howard Classic, against Hampton from 1994 to 1999. In 2000 that game moved to Giants Stadium and Howard would then spend more than a decade away from RFK.
Starting in 2011 and through the 2016 season, Howard played in the Nation's Football Classic at RFK, matching up against Morehouse at first and then Hampton again. In 2017, Events DC announced that they would discontinue the Classic and thus the last Bison game at RFK Stadium was a 34-7 "demoralizing" loss to Hampton on September 16, 2016.
For three seasons, RFK was home to the Women's United Soccer Association Washington team, the Washington Freedom. On April 14, 2001, Mia Hamm and the Washington Freedom defeated Brandi Chastain and the Bay Area CyberRays 1-0 in WUSA's inaugural match before 34,198 fans, the largest crowd in WUSA history and the largest crowd to watch a women's professional sports event in DC history. Over three years, the Freedom racked up a 15-9-6 record at RFK and finished as one of the league's top teams. They came in 2nd in 2002 and won the league's Founder's Cup in 2003. They played all of their home games at RFK, except for one in 2001 which they played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis to make room for the Washington Grand Prix. Their last game at RFK as part of WUSA was on August 2, 2003 when they defeated the San Jose Cyber Rays. They won the final Founder's Cup in August 2003 and returned to RFK a few days later - minus the players who were playing in the 2003 Women's World Cup - for a victory celebration with the fans, which would be their final WUSA event at RFK. WUSA suspended operation in the next month. Their victory in the Founders Cup means that the Freedom won both the first and last games in WUSA history. For a time, their championship banner hung in RFK, but when the Nationals moved in, the banner was moved to the Maryland Soccerplex.
The Freedom maintained an existence, first as exhibition team called the Washington Freedom Soccer Club, and then as a member of the W-League and the Women's Professional Soccer league in 2006. Their home stadium was the Maryland Soccerplex, but they continued to play a few games at RFK. In 2004, the played an exhibition at Nottingham Forest, which they won 8-0. They returned again on June 22, 2008 in a W-League match, which they won 5-0, against the Richmond Kickers Destiny that was part of a doubleheader with DC United. In 2009, the Freedom moved to the WPS and while they continued to play most of their home games in Maryland, they played 3 of their 10 home games at RFK in 2009 and one game there in 2010. In the years after WUSA suspended operations, the Freedom went 5-0-1 at RFK, bringing their combined RFK total to 20-9-7. After the 2010 season, the Freedom's owners had had enough, and sold the team to Dan Borislow, owner of the phone service MagicJack. He moved them to Boca Raton, Florida for the team's last season. The Freedom's final game at RFK was a 3-1 victory over Saint Louis Athletica on May 1, 2010.
In 1967, D.C. Stadium became the home of its first professional soccer team, the Washington Whips. They played 23 regular season games at D.C. Stadium over 16 months, putting together a 13-5-5 home record as well as a home loss in an exhibition against Pele's Santos Club. 20,189 fans attended the Santos exhibition, more than three times as large as a typical Whips match, making it the most heavily attended soccer game in Washington, DC history at the time. The game was heavily promoted in the local press and the Whips, who were struggling to attract fans to their regular matches, provided additional incentive through a "Meet Pele" contest.
RFK served as the venue for the inaugural match of the new United Soccer Association (USA), a May 26, 1967 match between the Whips and the Cleveland Stokers, which the Stokers won. Although the Whips secured a lease agreement to play its home games at D.C. Stadium, Armory Board officials prohibited practice sessions at the venue and so the team practiced on the old polo grounds between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.
In their first season, the Whips were one of the league's top teams and they were staffed by the Aberdeen Football Club of the Scottish Football League, or the Aberdeen Dons. They finished 5-2-5, good enough to win the Eastern Division and play for the USA Championship against the Los Angeles Wolves. A coin toss placed the game in Los Angeles instead of D.C. and the Whips lost the championship game 6-5 on an own goal in overtime, in front of 17,842 fans on the Wolves' home field.
Despite success on the field, the team struggled to make money. The owner's estimated that they needed to attract 16,000 fans per game, but they never broke 10,000 and averaged only 6,200 fans. Towards the end of the 1967 season, the Whips resorted to organizing British Isles sporting contests such as cricket, hurling, and rugby before games in hopes of luring expatriates.
In 1968, in order to stay viable, they negotiated a reduction in the RFK stadium lease agreement and reduced the admission price by one-third; offering further discounts for youth under the age of eighteen, college students, and active military personnel. The USA merged with the National Professional Soccer League to form the new North American Soccer League. Despite problems on and off the field, the team found itself in a high-stakes hunt for a playoff spot and towards the end of the season crowds swelled to five figures, the largest reaching 14,227 in what proved to be the deciding match for the NASL Atlantic Division title. This September 7, 1968 match against the Atlanta Chiefs would be the last for the Whips at D.C. Stadium. That season, the team went 15-10-7 and finished 2nd in the Atlantic division, but was only able to draw an average of 6,586 fans. After a tour of Europe, the Whips folded in October 1968.
Washington's only USFL team, the Washington Federals, played two seasons at RFK and during that time, they had both the league's worst record each season, and, in 1984, the lowest per-game attendance. For the opening game, 38,000 fans showed up to see the return of former Redskins coach George Allen, the coach of the Chicago Blitz, in a game the Federals lost, 28-7. But attendance quickly dropped off, with as few as 7,303 showing up for a late-season game against the Boston Breakers. The team went 4-14, but won 3 of their last 4. In 1984 they did worse, going 3-15 and only averaging 7,700 fans per game with a low of 4,432 against the Memphis Showboats. That season featured George Allen's last game at RFK, a March 31, 1984 game when the Blitz squeaked past the Federals 21-20.
With 6 games remaining in the 1984 season, owner Berl Bernhard sold the team to Florida real estate developer Woody Weiser, who announced plans to move the Federals to Miami. In the off-season, when that deal fell through, Donald Dizney bought the team, moved it to Orlando and renamed it the Renegades.
After going 7-29 overall, and 5-18 at RFK, the Federals ended their run with a 20-17 win over the New Orleans Breakers on June 24, 1984.
Team America was a professional version of the United States men's national soccer team which played as a franchise in the North American Soccer League (NASL) during the 1983 season. The team played its home games at RFK Stadium, and was intended by the NASL and the United States Soccer Federation to build fan support for the league and create a cohesive and internationally competitive national team. However, the team finished in last place and drew only 12,000 fans per game.
Team America played 19 games at RFK. In those games they went 5-10 in NASL matches and tied three friendlies against Watford (UK), Dynamo Minsk (USSR) and Juventas (Italy).
The team's initial attendance figures were decent enough: an average of 19,952 through the first seven home matches. (This was a little misleading, however: the figure includes the 50,108 who attended a match vs. Fort Lauderdale that featured a free Beach Boys concert; the other six matches averaged just 14,926.) As the losses piled up, though, the fans stopped coming to RFK: barely 55,000 showed up for the last eight home games combined, lowering Team America's average to just 13,002 for the entire 1983 season. After the 1983 season, Team America disbanded.
The stadium's design was perfectly circular, attempting to facilitate both football and baseball. It was the first to use the so-called "cookie-cutter" concept, an approach also used in Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Except for the stadiums in Houston, San Diego, and Oakland (the former is still standing but is no longer actively used, while the latter two are still active), RFK Stadium ultimately outlasted all of the aforementioned stadiums.
In 1961, the stadium represented a huge step forward in luxury. It opened with 50,000 seats, each 22 inches (56 cm) wide (at a time when the typical seat was only 15-16 in (38-41 cm)), air-conditioned locker rooms, and a lounge for the player's wives. It had a machine-operated tarpaulin to cover the field, yard-wide aisles, and ramps that made it possible to empty the stadium in just 15 minutes. The ticket office was connected to the ticket windows by pneumatic tubes. The press boxes could be enclosed and expanded for big events. And the stadium had a jail, or holding cell, for drunks and brawlers. It had 12,000 parking spaces and was served by 300 buses. It also had lighting that was twice as bright at what was at Griffith Stadium.
As with other similar stadiums, it was not ideal for either sport, due to the different geometries of the playing fields. As the playing field dimensions for football and baseball vary greatly, seating had to accommodate the larger playing surface.
As a baseball park, RFK was a particular target of scorn from baseball purists, largely because it was one of the few stadiums with no lower-deck seats in the outfield. The only outfield seats are in the upper deck, above a high wall. According to Sporting News publications in the 1960s, over 27,000 seats--roughly 60% of the listed capacity of 45,000 for baseball--were in the upper tier or mezzanine levels. The lower-to-upper proportion improved for the Redskins, with end-zone seats filling in some of the gaps. On the debit side, however, the first ten rows of the football configuration were nearly at field level, making it difficult to see over the players. The baseball diamond was aligned due east (home plate to center field), and the football field ran along the first base line (northwest to southeast).
A complex conversion was necessary, at a cost of $40,000 per switch, to change the stadium from a football configuration to baseball and back again; in its final form, this included rolling the third-base lower-level seats into the outfield along a buried rail, dropping the hydraulic pitcher's mound 3 feet (0.9 m) into the ground, and laying sod over the infield dirt. Later facilities were designed so the seating configuration could be changed much more quickly and at a lower cost. The conversion was only required several times per year during the Senators' joint tenancy with the Redskins (1962-71), but became much more frequent while the Nationals and D.C. United shared the stadium during the mostly concurrent MLB and MLS seasons; in 2005, the conversion was made over twenty times.
Originally the seats located behind the stadium's third-base dugout were removed for baseball games and put back in place when the stadium was converted to the football (and later soccer) configuration. When these sections were in place, RFK seated approximately 56,000. With the Nationals' arrival in 2005, this particular segment of the stands was permanently removed to facilitate the switch between the baseball and soccer configurations. These seats were not restored following the Nationals' move to Nationals Park, leaving the stadium's seating capacity at approximately 46,000. The majority of the upper-deck seats normally were not made available for D.C. United matches, so the stadium's reduced capacity normally was not problematic for the club.
During the years when the stadium was without baseball (1972-2004), the rotating seats remained in the football configuration. If an exhibition baseball game was scheduled, the left-field wall was only 250 feet (76 m) from home plate, and a large screen was erected in left field for some games.
Some of RFK's quirks endear the venue to fans and players. The large rolling bleacher section is less stable than other seating, allowing fans to jump in rhythm to cause the whole area to bounce. Also, despite its small size (it never seated more than 58,000), because of the stadium's design and the proximity of the fans to the field when configured for football, the stadium was extremely loud when the usual sell-out Redskins crowds became vocal. Legend has it that Redskins head coach George Allen would order a large rolling door in the side of the stadium to be opened when visiting teams were attempting field goals at critical moments in games so that a swirling wind from off the Potomac and Anacostia rivers might interfere with the flight of the kicked ball.
Events D.C.--the city agency which operates RFK Stadium--began a strategic planning process in November 2013 to study options for the future of the stadium, its 80 acres (32 ha) campus, and the nonmilitary portions of the adjacent D.C. Armory. Events D.C. said one option to be studied was demolition within a decade, while another would be the status quo. The strategic planning process also included design and development of options. The agency said that RFK Stadium has generated $4 million to $5 million a year in revenues since 1997, which did not cover operating expenses. In August 2014, Events D.C. chose the consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey to create the master plan.
The dimensions of the baseball field were 335 feet (102 m) down the foul lines, 380 feet (116 m) to the power alleys and 408 feet (124 m) to center field during the Senators' time. The official distances when the Nationals arrived were identical, except for two additional feet to center field. After complaints from Nationals hitters it was discovered in July 2005 that the fence had actually been put in place incorrectly, and it was 394.74 feet (120.3 m) to the power alleys in left; 395 feet (120 m) to the right-field power alley; and 407.83 feet (124.3 m) to center field. The section of wall containing the 380-foot (116 m) sign was moved closer to the foul lines to more accurately represent the distance shown on the signs but no changes were made to the actual dimensions.
Two major league teams called RFK home, the Senators (1962-71) and the Nationals (2005-07). In between, the stadium hosted an assortment of exhibition games, old-timer games, and at least one college baseball exhibition game. In addition, from 1988 to 1991 the RFK auxiliary field served as the home stadium of the George Washington Colonials college baseball team, and hosted some Howard University and Interhigh League and D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship baseball games.
RFK was the home of two professional football teams, two college football teams, a bowl game and more than one college all-star game. It hosted neutral-site college football games, various HBCU games, and high school championship games.
Although not designed for soccer, RFK Stadium, starting in the mid-1970s, became a center of American soccer, rivaled only by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in terms of its history as a soccer venue. It is the only facility in the World to have hosted the FIFA World Cup (in 1994), the FIFA Women's World Cup (in 2003), an Olympic group stage (in 1996), the MLS Cup (in 1997, 2000, and 2007), the North American Soccer League's Soccer Bowl (in 1980) and CONCACAF Champions' Cup matches (in 1988 and 1998). The United States men's national soccer team played more of its matches at RFK stadium than at any other site, and D.C. United played 347 regular-season matches there.
Notable soccer dates at the stadium include:
RFK hosted at least two college soccer games, once when Maryland moved their game there due to wet field conditions at Ludwig Field and again for a scheduled game following their national championship season. It has hosted several other Maryland games at the auxiliary field.
The United States men's national soccer team has played more games at RFK Stadium than any other stadium. At times it was suggested that due to the nature of RFK and its quirkiness that it would be a suitable national stadium if US Soccer were ever to seek one out. Several prominent members of the national team have scored at RFK, including Brian McBride, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Landon Donovan. Winners are listed first.
|October 6, 1977||Friendly||China PR||1-1||United States||Unknown|
|May 12, 1990||Friendly||AFC Ajax||1-1||United States||18,245|
|October 19, 1991||Friendly||North Korea||2-1||United States||16,351|
|May 30, 1992||1992 U.S. Cup||United States||3-1||Republic of Ireland||35,696|
|October 13, 1993||Friendly||Mexico||1-1||United States||23,927|
|June 18, 1995||1995 U.S. Cup||United States||4-0||Mexico||38,615|
|October 8, 1995||Friendly||United States||4-3||Saudi Arabia||10,216|
|June 12, 1996||1996 U.S. Cup||Bolivia||2-0||United States||19,350|
|November 3, 1996||1998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||United States||2-0||Guatemala||30,082|
|October 3, 1997||1998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||Jamaica||1-1||United States||51,528|
|May 30, 1998||Friendly||Scotland||0-0||United States||46,037|
|June 13, 1999||Friendly||United States||1-0||Argentina||40,119|
|June 3, 2000||2000 U.S. Cup||United States||4-0||South Africa||16,570|
|September 3, 2000||2002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||United States||1-0||Guatemala||51,556|
|September 1, 2001||2002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||Honduras||3-2||United States||54,282|
|May 12, 2002||Friendly||United States||2-1||Uruguay||30,413|
|November 17, 2002||Friendly||United States||2-0||El Salvador||25,390|
|October 13, 2004||2006 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||United States||6-0||Panama||22,000|
|October 11, 2008||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||United States||6-1||Cuba||20,249|
|July 8, 2009||2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup||United States||2-1||Honduras||26,079|
|October 14, 2009||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)||Costa Rica||2-2||United States||36,243|
|June 19, 2011||2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup||United States||2-0||Jamaica||45,424|
|June 2, 2013||US Soccer Centennial Match||United States||4-3||Germany||47,359|
|May 31, 2015||Friendly||El Salvador||0-2||Honduras||Unknown|
|September 4, 2015||Friendly||United States||2-1||Peru||28,896|
|October 11, 2016||Friendly||United States||1-1||New Zealand||9,012|
|Date||Time (UTC-5)||Team #1||Res.||Team #2||Round||Attendance|
|1994-06-24||19:30||Netherlands||2-1||Saudi Arabia||Group F||50,535|
|1994-06-29||12:30||Belgium||0-1||Saudi Arabia||Group F||52,959|
|1994-07-02||16:30||Spain||3-0||Switzerland||Round of 16||53,121|
Late on May 22, 1993, nine thousand saw Riddick Bowe record a second-round knockout over Jesse Ferguson to retain his WBA heavyweight On the same day Roy Jones recorded a unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins to capture the vacant IBF middleweight title.
On July 21, 2002, the American Le Mans Series held its first event in Washington, D.C. The Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. was run on a temporary circuit laid out in the RFK stadium parking lot, and was the first major motor sports event held in the District of Columbia in 80 years. Prior to the race, residents living near the stadium were concerned about traffic, parking, and the noise the lengthy event would create. Citizens were outraged when they learned that District officials had ignored laws and regulations requiring an environmental impact assessment for the race, and that Le Mans officials had lied to the city about noise levels. Local citizens were further angered when American Le Mans racing officials reneged on a promise to remove the Jersey barriers outlining the racecourse from stadium parking lots, leaving the unsightly structures behind and preventing the lots from being used for parking. When the American Le Mans organization tried to hold a second race at RFK in 2003, outraged residents successfully forced D.C. officials to cancel the city's ten-year lease with the company (no more races were ever held).
The final stage of the 1992 Tour DuPont was a 14.7-mile (23.7 km) time trial from RFK to Rock Creek Park and back. Greg LeMond came in third for the stage and won the Tour, the last major win of his career. He won $50,000 and a kiss from Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.Steve Hegg won the stage.
On 26 February 2018, it was announced that Wales national rugby union team would play a "ground-breaking fixture" against South Africa national rugby union team at RFK Stadium on 2 June 2018. It is "Wales' fifth test on US soil, the previous four outings all against the United States national rugby union team."
The stadium was prominently featured in the climax of the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in May 2014. In the film, Magneto uses his powers to place the stadium as a barricade around the White House; the stadium is partially damaged. At the end of the film, a newspaper article announces the stadium is to begin reconstruction. (RFK is shown being prepped for a baseball game; however, the movie is set in 1973, two years after the Senators left for Texas.)
During the Redskins' tenure, the Washington Hall of Stars was displayed on a series of white-and-red signs hung in a ring around the stadium's mezzanine, honoring D.C. sports greats from various sports. With the reconfiguration of the stadium, it was replaced by a series of dark-green banners over the center-field and right-field fences in order to make room for out-of-town scoreboards and advertising signage. There are 15 separate panels honoring 82 figures. Nationals Park also hosts a smaller version of the display.
To the right of Panel 15 are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Cup wins: 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. To the right of these banners is D.C. United's "Tradition of Excellence" banner, which honors John Harkes and Marco Etcheverry. To the left of those banners are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Supporters Shield wins: 1997, 1999, 2006 and 2007.
RFK Stadium is within mile (0.80 km) of and easily accessible from the Stadium-Armory station of the Washington Metro. The station is served by the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines. It is also served directly by Metrobus lines B2, D6, E32 (at Eastern High School), 96 and 97.
To commemorate the centennial of Korean immigration to the United States, a music festival featuring Korean pop singers was held on June 28 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Exactly 100 years ago, scores of Koreans arrived in Hawaii, beginning the history of Korean immigration. With the number of Koreans currently residing in the U.S. exceeding one million, a series of festivals and seminars had been scheduled in both countries to celebrate and reflect on the past 100 years. Organized by the Hankook Ilbo, sister paper of The Korea Times, and the television network SBS, the concert featured scores of famous musicians such as BoA, NRG, Babyvox, Cho Young-nam, Patty Kim, Kim Gun-mo and Jo Sung-mo, under the title "Korean-American Peace Festival". The top stars visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the National Mall in the capital on the eve of the concert. According to The Korea Times in New York, a local daily for Korean-American society, a large number of Korean residents throughout the U.S. attended the concert and took part in a Washington, D.C. tour package, to help local travel agencies suffering from recession. The four-hour concert will be shown here in Korea on SBS on July 17, Korea's Constitution Day.