Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium

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Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
RFK
RFK Stadium logo.png
RFK Stadium aerial photo, looking towards Capitol, 1988.jpg
RFK Stadium from the east in 1988,
looking towards the U.S. Capitol
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
USA District of Columbia location map.svg
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Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Location within the District of Columbia
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Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (the United States)
Former namesDistrict of Columbia Stadium
(1961–1969)
Address2400 East Capitol Street SE
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′24″N76°58′19″W / 38.890°N 76.972°W / 38.890; -76.972
Public transit WMATA Metro Logo.svg Washington Metro
WMATA Blue.svg WMATA Orange.svg WMATA Silver.svg at Stadium–Armory
Aiga bus trans.svg Metrobus: 96, 97, B2, D6
OwnerDistrict of Columbia
Operator Events DC
Capacity Baseball:
43,500 (1961)
45,016 (1971)
45,596 (2005)
Football or soccer:
56,692 (1961)
45,596 (2005–2019)
20,000 (2012–2017, MLS)
Field size Football: 120 yd × 53.333 yd (110 m × 49 m)
Soccer: 110 yd × 72 yd (101 m × 66 m)
Baseball:
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) RFKMemorialStadiumBaseballFieldDimensions.svg
SurfaceTifGrand Bermuda grass [1]
Construction
Broke groundJuly 8, 1960 [2]
OpenedOctober 1, 1961
ClosedSeptember 15, 2019
Demolished2023–
Construction cost $24 million
($245 million in 2023 dollars [3] )
Architect George Leighton Dahl, Architects and Engineers, Inc.
Structural engineer Osborn Engineering Company
Services engineer Ewin Engineering Associates
General contractor McCloskey and Co.
Tenants
Washington Redskins (NFL) 1961–1996
George Washington Colonials (NCAA) 1961–1966
Washington Senators (MLB) 1962–1971
Washington Whips (USA / NASL) 1967–1968
Howard Bison (NCAA) 1974–1976
Washington Diplomats (NASL) 1974, 1977–1981
Team America (NASL) 1983
Washington Federals (USFL) 1983–1984
Washington Diplomats (ASL/APSL) 1988–1990
D.C. United (MLS) 1996–2017
Washington Freedom (WUSA) 2001–2003
Washington Nationals (MLB) 2005–2007
Military Bowl (NCAA) 2008–2012
Website
eventsdc.com/Venues/RFKStadium.aspx

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, commonly known as RFK Stadium and originally known as District of Columbia Stadium, is a defunct multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C. It is located about two miles (3 km) due east of the U.S. Capitol building, near the west bank of the Anacostia River and next to the D.C. Armory. Opened in 1961, it was owned by the federal government until 1986. [4]

Contents

RFK Stadium was home to a National Football League (NFL) team, two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, five professional soccer teams, two college football teams, a bowl game, and a USFL team. It 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 hosted college football, college soccer, baseball exhibitions, boxing matches, a cycling race, an American Le Mans Series auto race, marathons, and dozens of major concerts and other events.

RFK was one of the first major stadiums designed to host both baseball and football. Although other stadiums already served this purpose, 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 lease that runs until 2038 from the National Park Service, which owns the land. [5]

In September 2019, Events DC officials announced plans to demolish the stadium due to maintenance costs. [6] In September 2020, the cost was estimated at $20 million. [7] Demolition of the surrounding area began in 2023, however, demolition of the stadium itself has not begun as of 2024. [8] [9]

As of February 2024, there is an active bill in the U.S. Congress [10] to extend the lease by 99 years. [11] This bill passed the House on February 28, 2024, and is pending before the Senate. [12]

On May 2, 2024 it was announced that the stadium was set to be demolished. [13]

History

Planning

The idea of a stadium at this location originated in 1930 when plans were developed by the "Allied Architects of Washington, in cooperation with the Fine Arts and National Capital Park and Planning Commissions and the Board of Trade." [14] Plans were further developed in 1932 when the Roosevelt Memorial Association (RMA) proposed a National Stadium for the site [15] and Allied Architects, a group of local architects organized in 1925 to secure large-scale projects from the government, made designs for it. [16] 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 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. [17]

The idea of a stadium gained support in 1938, when Senator Robert Reynolds of North Carolina pushed for the creation of a municipal outdoor stadium within the District, 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. By 1941, the National Capital Planning Commission had begun buying property for a stadium, purchasing the land between East Capitol, C, 19th and 21st NE. [18] A few years later, on December 20, 1944, Congress created a nine-man National Memorial Stadium Commission to study the idea. [19] They intended the stadium to be a memorial to the veterans of the 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 failed to get funding. [20]

Ignored in the early 1950s, a new stadium again drew interest in 1954. Congressman Charles R. Howell of New Jersey proposed 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. [19] 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 (since 1954 part of what became Volkert, Inc.) and Osborn Engineering. Groundbreaking for the $24 million venue was in 1960 on July 8, and construction proceeded over the following 14 months. [21] 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 (he had preferred to play at a site in Washington's Northwest Quadrant) and he'd have to pay rent and let others run the parking and concessions. The Senators' attendance figures had suffered after the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and Griffith then grew to prefer the less racially-defined demographics and profit potential of the Minnesota market. [22] In 1960, when the American League 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. [19]

Opening

The stadium opened in autumn 1961 as District of Columbia Stadium (often shortened to D.C. Stadium). The new venue opened for football even though construction was not completed until the following spring. [23]

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 Redskins lost that game to the New York Giants 24–21 before 36,767 fans, including President John F. Kennedy. [24] This was slightly more than the attendance record at Griffith Stadium of 36,591 on October 26, 1947 (in a game vs the Bears). [19] [24]

At a college football game labeled the "Dedication Game," the stadium was dedicated on October 7. George Washington University became the first home team to win at the stadium with a 30–6 defeat of VMI. [21] [25]

Its first sell-out came on November 23, 1961, for the first of what were to be annual Thanksgiving Day high-school football games between the D.C. public school champion and the D.C. Catholic school champion: Eastern defeated St. John's 34–14. [26] [27]

President Kennedy throws the first pitch of the 1962 baseball season at D.C. Stadium President John F. Kennedy Throws the First Pitch of the 1962 Baseball Season.jpg
President Kennedy throws the first pitch of the 1962 baseball season at D.C. Stadium

The first Major League Baseball game was played 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 4–1 and Senators shortstop Bob Johnson hit the first home run. [28] [29] The previous Washington baseball attendance record was 38,701 at Griffith Stadium on October 11, 1925, at the fourth game of the World Series, and was the largest ever for a professional sports event in Washington. [30] The previous largest baseball opening day figure had been 31,728 (on April 19, 1948). [19]

When it opened, D.C. Stadium hosted the Redskins, the Senators, and the GWU Colonials football team, all of whom had previously used Griffith Stadium: the GWU Colonials shut down their football team at the end of the 1966 season, while the Senators moved to Dallas-Fort Worth at the end of the 1971 season, and became the Texas Rangers, playing in Arlington Stadium.

Early years

In 1961, Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall refused to integrate his team with black players, but President Kennedy forced his hand by refusing to allow the team to play in the stadium, which was on Federal land, unless he desegregated the organization. In 1962, Marshall relented and selected Ernie Davis first overall in the 1962 draft. However, Davis refused to play for the team and was traded for Bobby Mitchell, with Marshall later signing four other black players for the season as the last NFL owner to integrate. [31]

In 1961 and 1962, D.C. Stadium hosted the annual city title game, matching the D.C. Public Schools champion and the titleholder for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, played before capacity crowds on Thanksgiving Day. The November 22, 1962, 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. [32] [33]

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. [34] Baker later went to jail for tax fraud, and the FBI investigated the awarding of the stadium contract, although McCloskey was never charged. [35]

Renaming the stadium

The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, [36] 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. [37] [38] The dedication ceremony at the stadium was held several months later on June 7. [38] [39]

Senators depart

The Senators' final game was at RFK on Thursday night, September 30, 1971, [40] with less than 15,000 in attendance. [41] Rains from Hurricane Ginger threatened the event, [40] but the game proceeded. 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 7–5, but the game was forfeited (9–0) to the Yankees after unruly fans stormed the field with two outs in the top of the ninth. [19] [40] Subsequent efforts to bring baseball back to RFK, including an attempt to attract the San Diego Padres in 1973, [42] [43] [44] and a plan to have the nearby Baltimore Orioles play eleven home games there in 1976, all failed. [45] The former was derailed by lease issues with the city in San Diego, [44] and the latter was shot down by commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who had planned to expand the league with four teams (aiming for Seattle, New Orleans, Toronto and Washington that would see an 14-team NL and AL). [46] [47] The expansion for 1977 was later reduced to two teams to be placed in the American League with Toronto and Seattle, and the next wasn't until 1993 (speculation for expansion had started as early as 1989 with Washington as a city in mind, but it proved fruitless). In the mid-1990s RFK was planned to be the home of the yet-to-be-named Washington team, a charter franchise of the United League (UL) which was planned to be a third league of Major League Baseball (MLB).

For much of the 1970s and 1980s, RFK was primarily known as the home of the Redskins, where they played during their three Super Bowl championship seasons. It also hosted several short-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.

D.C. United moves in, Redskins move out, Nationals come and go

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 hosted the Redskins' final home game in Washington, D.C. 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 collapse 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. [48] [49] [50] On December 22, 1996, the Redskins won their last game at RFK Stadium 37–10 over the Dallas Cowboys, reprising their first win there in 1961, before 56,454, the largest football crowd in stadium history. The Redskins then moved east to FedExField 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 were joined by the Washington Freedom of the short-lived Women's United Soccer Association.

After hosting 16 exhibition games after the Senators' departure, baseball returned to RFK temporarily in 2005. [51] 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 George W. 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 do so in RFK Stadium. [21] Bush threw a ball saved by former Senators pitcher Joe Grzenda from that teams ill-fated final home game—the ball Grzenda would have pitched to Yankee second baseman Horace Clarke when fans rioted and forced the forfeit. 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.

The last team leaves

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 Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. [52] 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. [53] [54] 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 D.C. United loss to the New York Red Bulls. [55]

Demolition

On September 5, 2019, Events DC announced plans to demolish the stadium by 2021. Officials said the decision would save $2 million a year on maintenance and $1.5 million a year on utilities. [6] One year later, they hired a contractor to oversee the demolition, which was expected to begin in 2022 and cost $20 million. [7] In July 2022, Events DC announced that the removal of hazardous materials had begun and would "take several months," and that demolition would "be completed by the end of 2023." [56] In the same month, several fires occurred inside the stadium. The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department firefighters and emergency workers responded and extinguished them. They indicated that the fires were in "below grade levels". No injuries were reported, and cause of the fires is currently unknown. [57] [58] In November 2022, a sale of stadium seats was announced ahead of the 2023 demolition. [59] [60] As of October 2023, crews have begun gutting areas of the site, though structural demolition has not begun. [61] [8] [9] On May 2, 2024 the NPS announced that it had determined the stadium could be demolished with no significant impacts to the natural, cultural and human environment, meaning they could issue a permit to the District to demolish the stadium. [62]

Name

The stadium opened in October 1961 named the District of Columbia Stadium, but the media quickly shortened that to D.C. Stadium and sometimes, in the early days, as "Washington Stadium". [63] 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 Kennedy's honor. [38] [36] The official renaming ceremony was held on June 7, [38] [39] but by then many had already been referring to it as "RFK Stadium" or simply "RFK". [19] Coincidentally, following the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Armory Board had directed that the stadium be renamed for him, [64] but the plan faltered when a few weeks later the Philadelphia city council passed a bill renaming Philadelphia Stadium as "John F. Kennedy Stadium". [65]

Robert Kennedy was not without connection to the stadium; as attorney general in the early 1960s, his Justice Department played a role in the Redskins' racial integration. [66] Along with Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players. [66] [67] His brother John 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". [68] This plan was dropped within days, however, after several prominent members of Congress questioned the use of public funds for a stadium sponsorship. [69]

Similar proposals to sell the naming rights to the National Guard, [68] ProFunds (a Bethesda, Maryland investment company), [69] and Sony [70] were formed and discarded in 2005 and 2006.

Tenants

George Washington Colonials (1961–1966)

The other team to move from Griffith 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 there, which GWU won 30–6. The Colonials were forced to play their first three games on the road to allow the stadium to be completed. In the following years, because the Senators had priority, GWU waited until October (when baseball season was over) to schedule games. 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. [25] [21] [71] [72]

The Colonials 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 weren't much better at D.C. Stadium where their record was 11–13 (.458), facing off against Army twice and against a Liberty Bowl-bound West Virginia in 1964 (all losses). [73] 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 13–6 win. [74]

The final George Washington football game to date, and the last at D.C. Stadium, came on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1966, when the team lost to Villanova, 16–7. [75]

After the season was over, GW President Dr. Lloyd H. Elliott chose to reevaluate GW's football program. [76] On December 19, 1966, head coach Jim Camp, conference coach of the year, resigned citing the uncertainty. The next day, a member of the Board of Trustees announced that the school would drop football. [77] On January 19, 1967, the decision became official. [78] GW decided to use the football program's funding to eventually build the Charles E. Smith Center for the basketball team. [78] Poor game attendance and the expense, estimated at $254,000 during the 1966 season, contributed to the decision. Former GW player Harry Ledford believed that most people were unwilling to drive on Friday nights to D.C. Stadium, which was perceived as an unsafe area and lacked rail transit. Maryland and Virginia were nationally competitive teams that drew potential suburban spectators away from GW. [79]

Washington Redskins (1961–1996)

RFK Stadium was home to the Washington Redskins for 36 seasons, from 1961 through 1996. The football field was aligned northwest to southeast, along the first baseline.

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 archrival, the struggling second-year Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins played 266 regular-season games at RFK, compiling a 173–102–3 (.628) record, including an impressive 11–1 record in the playoffs. [80]

In its twelfth season, RFK hosted its first professional football playoff game on Christmas Eve 1972, a 16–3 Redskins' win over the Green Bay Packers. It was the city's first postseason game in three decades, following 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 are the only team to win five NFC titles at the same stadium. In the subsequent Super Bowls, Washington won three (XVII, XXII, XXVI).

The Redskins' last game at the stadium was a victory, as 56,454 saw a 37–10 win over the division champion Cowboys on December 22, 1996. [81] [82]

Washington Senators (1962–1971)

D.C. Stadium in 1963, looking west District of Columbia Stadium 1963.jpeg
D.C. Stadium in 1963, looking west

The Washington Senators of the American League played at RFK Stadium from 1962 through 1971. They played their first season in 1961 at Griffith Stadium.

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, 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. Howard came to the Senators from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. He hit the Senators' final RFK homer, in the sixth inning on September 30, 1971. With two outs in the top of the ninth, [83] 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. [84] [85]

These Senators' only winning season came in 1969 at 86–76 (.531); they never made the postseason. They had a home record at RFK of 363–441 (.451), representing the most games, wins, and losses by any team at RFK in any sport. The stadium hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1962 (first of two) and 1969, both won by the visiting National League. 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. [86] President Nixon was to throw out the first ball at the 1969 game to celebrate baseball's centennial, but it was postponed due to rain and so Nixon chose instead to greet the Apollo 11 astronauts. Vice President Spiro Agnew filled in. [87]

Washington Whips (1967–68)

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 (.674) home record as well as losing an exhibition against Pelé and his standout Brazilian club Santos FC, for a total RFK record of 13–6–5 (.646). [88] 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 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 Pelé" contest. [89]

RFK served as the venue for the inaugural match of the United Soccer Association (USA), a May 26, 1967, match between the Whips and the Cleveland Stokers, won by the Stokers. [89]

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.

The owners estimated that they needed to attract 16,000 fans per game, but they never broke 10,000 and averaged only 6,200. 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. [89]

In 1968, to stay viable, they negotiated a reduction in the lease payment and reduced admission prices by one-third; among other discounts. 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 battle for a playoff spot and towards the end of the season crowds swelled to as much as 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 was the last for the Whips at D.C. Stadium. That season, the team went 15–10–7 drawing an average of 6,586 fans. After a tour of Europe, the Whips folded in October 1968. [89]

Howard Bison (1970–2016)

No team has a longer history with RFK Stadium than the Howard Bison football team, who played there 42 times over nearly 46 years (the Detroit Tigers are 2nd by ~8 months, having played their first game there April 9, 1962, and their last on June 20, 2007). Between their first game in 1970 and last, in 2016, they earned 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, they began scheduling games at RFK. Howard's first RFK game was a 24–7 victory over Fisk on October 24, 1970. [90] 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. [91] After the 1977 season they returned to Howard Stadium, but continued to play their annual homecoming game at RFK through 1985. After the 1985 season, Howard Stadium was refurbished and renamed, and for the next 7 years, Howard played all of their home games there.

In 1992 they returned to RFK for a game against Bowie State that was marked by taunting and a game-ending scuffle. [92] 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 spent 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. [93] In 2017, Events DC announced that they would discontinue the Classic and thus the last Bison game at RFK Stadium was a 34–7 loss to Hampton on September 16, 2016. [94] [95]

Washington Diplomats (1974–1981, 1988–1990)

Between 1974 and 1990, three soccer teams played at RFK under 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 calculating that an average of 12,000 spectators would allow them to break even. Despite white flight, owners thought that recent completion of the Beltway, the stadium's 12,000 parking spaces and future completion of a Metro station would facilitate attendance. Games were scheduled for Saturday and prices were set low. The Diplomats inaugural game was on May 4 with an 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 throughout the season. [89]

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. [96] Even with the success of the Cosmos game, attendance declined again and before the 1976 season the Diplomats announced that they had scheduled every home game, except the one against the Cosmos, at Woodson. During the season, they moved that game to Woodson. [89]

After averaging 5,963 at Woodson, the Diplomats decided to ramp up their marketing and move back to RFK in 1977. The team changed everything from the uniforms to the cheerleaders, but 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. Success on the field during the 1978 and 1979 seasons (including a franchise-best 19 wins in '79) did not translate to ticket sales and even with a negligible amount of revenue from "indoor Dips" games at the D.C. Armory during the offseason, the franchise continued to lose money. [89]

In 1980, they signed Dutch international superstar Johan Cruyff, the Pelé of the Potomac, from the Los Angeles Aztecs. 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 Pelé-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. [89]

Three months later, the Detroit Express announced a move to D.C. for 1981, and that they would also be the Diplomats. They had trouble attracting fans; and soon folded.

The Diplomats of the NASL, racked up an impressive 60–29 (.674) record at RFK, the best winning percentage of any RFK home team, and were 1–1 in the playoffs. [97] [89]

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 often drew fewer than 1000 fans. In 1990 they finished last in the Southern Division of the APSL East, were unable to pay the rent and folded in October 1990. [98] [99] Over the course of 4 seasons they were 18–15 (.545) at RFK, and 2–0 at the RFK auxiliary field.

Team America (1983)

Team America was a professional version of the United States men's national soccer team which played like 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 drawing 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 F.C. (from the United Kingdom), FC Dinamo Minsk (from the Soviet Union), and Juventus FC (from Italy) for a final record of 5–10–3 (.361).

The team's attendance averaged 19,952 through the first seven home matches, [100] including the 50,108 who attended a match vs. Fort Lauderdale that featured a free Beach Boys concert. Losses led to declining attendance as the season wore on. Attendance averaged 13,002 for the entire 1983 season, having played only a single season. [101]

Washington Federals (1983–1984)

Washington's only USFL team, the Washington Federals, played two seasons at RFK and during that time, they had 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 in 1983 and 3–15 in 1984, averaging 7,700 fans.

With six games remaining in the 1984 season, owner Berl Bernhard sold the team to Florida real estate developer Woody Weiser. In the off-season, that deal fell through. Donald Dizney bought the team, moved it to Orlando and renamed it the Renegades.

After going 7–29 (.194) overall, and 5–18 (.217) at RFK, the Federals ended their run with a 20–17 win over the New Orleans Breakers on June 24, 1984.

D.C. United (1996–2017)

RFK Stadium during a D.C. United soccer match in March 2009 Rfkstadium.png
RFK Stadium during a D.C. United soccer match in March 2009

D.C. United of Major League Soccer played over 400 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. At RFK, they compiled a 228–113–75 (.638) record, winning more games at RFK than any team other than the Senators.

With its new stadium, Audi Field, opening in 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. [102] [103] 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, the playing surface and the dimensions of the field that resulted from baseball use drew criticism. D.C. United's departure left RFK with no professional sports tenant; however, after moving to Audi Field, D.C. United continued to use the outer practice fields at RFK for training and leased locker room and basement space there. [80]

Washington Freedom (2001–2003)

For three seasons, RFK was home to the Women's United Soccer Association team, the Washington Freedom. On April 14, 2001, the Freedom defeated 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 (the largest crowd for a women's sporting event was 45,946 for the 1996 women's Olympic soccer tournament, also at RFK). 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 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis to avoid 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 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 continued, first as an 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 they played an exhibition against Nottingham Forest, which they won 8–0. [104] They returned 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. [105] 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 10 home games at RFK in 2009 and one game there in 2010. [106] [107] In the years after WUSA suspended operations, the Freedom went 5–0–1 at RFK, bringing their combined RFK total to 20–9–7 (.653). 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.

Washington Nationals (2005–2007)

After playing as the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 2004, the Expos franchise moved to Washington, D.C., to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season. The Nationals played their first three seasons (20052007) 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. [108]

During the Nationals' three seasons there, RFK then became known as a pitchers' park. While Frank Howard hit at least 44 home runs for three straight seasons at RFK for the second Washington Senators franchise from 1968 through 1970, 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.

During their three seasons at RFK, the Nationals failed to make the playoffs or post a winning record. They went 41–40 at home in 2005 and 2006 and 40–41 in 2007 to finish with a 122–121 (.502) record at RFK.

Design

The stadium's design was 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.

While the perimeter of the stadium is circular, the front edge of the upper and lower decks form a "V" shape in deference to the baseball configuration. The rows of seating in the upper and lower decks follow the "V" layout, and the discrepancy between the shapes of the inner and outer rings permits more rows of seats to be inserted along the foul lines than at home plate and in the outfield. As a result, the height of the outside wall rises and falls in waves, and this is echoed in the roof, resulting in a "butterfly" appearance when seen at ground level from the west. This feature is unique among the circular stadiums of the 1960s, and it was reused by the Kingdome and Tropicana Field for their seating layouts.

The upper deck is cantilevered so that there are no columns from the lower deck obstructing views there. [109] Such a design is less compatible with the later demand for luxury boxes, due to weight; in contrast, FedExField has columns that obstruct views. [110] The design at RFK allowed the upper deck to shake when fans stomped in unison. [111]

In 1961, the stadium represented a new level of luxury. It offered 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 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. The stadium had a holding cell for drunks and brawlers. It had 12,000 parking spaces and was served by 300 buses. It had lighting that was twice as bright as Griffith Stadium. [23]

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. This would prove to be the case at nearly every multi-purpose/cookie-cutter stadium.

As a baseball park, RFK was a 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 were 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. The first ten rows of the football configuration were nearly at the 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 baseline (northwest to southeast).

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC RFKStadium.jpg
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC
DC United.jpg
Panoramic view in 2012, from the west corner (home plate to center field, due east)

A complex conversion was necessary, at a cost of $40,000 each time, 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 more quickly and at a lower cost. The conversion was required several times per year during the Senators' joint tenancy with the Redskins (1962–71) but became much more frequent during the Nationals/D.C. United era; 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.

View east from the Washington Monument, with RFK Stadium in the background (behind the U.S. Capitol). FedExField is visible at the top left corner. Capitol from top of Washington Monument.JPG
View east from the Washington Monument, with RFK Stadium in the background (behind the U.S. Capitol). FedExField is visible at the top left corner.

Some of RFK's quirks endear the venue to fans and players.[ citation needed ] 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.

Since the stadium is on a direct sightline with the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, light towers were not allowed; instead, arc lights were placed on its curved, dipping roof.

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 the 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. [112] In August 2014, Events D.C. chose the consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey to create the master plan. [113]

Seating capacity

Dimensions

Satellite view of the stadium in pre-2005 soccer configuration; the darker red seats at the northwest end (north is up on this image) were not part of the subsequent setup RFK Stadium satellite view.png
Satellite view of the stadium in pre-2005 soccer configuration; the darker red seats at the northwest end (north is up on this image) were not part of the subsequent setup

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.

The approximate elevation of the playing field is 10 feet (3.0 m) above sea level.

Sports events

Baseball

A Washington Nationals game at RFK, June 2005 RFK Stadium baseball.JPG
A Washington Nationals game at RFK, June 2005

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.

The last winning pitcher in any baseball game at RFK was Luis Ayala of the Nationals, the last runner to score was Chase Utley of the Phillies and the last home run was also hit by Chase Utley the day before off Tim Redding.[ citation needed ]

Football

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 regular season and championship games. [168]

Professional football

  • November 27, 1966: The Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants 72–41. The 113 combined points are the most ever scored in an NFL game.
  • December 14, 1969: The Redskins defeat the New Orleans Saints 17–14 in what would be Vince Lombardi's last victory. The Redskins would lose the next week at Dallas, and Lombardi would die just before the start of the 1970 season.
  • November 20, 1972: RFK Stadium hosts its first Monday Night Football game. The Washington Redskins defeat the Atlanta Falcons 24–13.
  • December 31, 1972, the Redskins defeat the Dallas Cowboys 26–3 in the NFC Championship Game to earn a trip to Super Bowl VII.
  • October 8, 1973: In a Monday Night Football game, Redskins safety Ken Houston stops Cowboys' running back Walt Garrison at the goal line as time expired to secure a win.
  • December 17, 1977: The Redskins defeat the Los Angeles Rams 17–14 in what would be head coach George Allen's final game with the team.
  • October 25, 1981: The Redskins narrowly beat the New England Patriots 24–22 to earn head coach Joe Gibbs his first win at RFK Stadium.
  • October 17, 1982: First NFLPA's all-star games during the 1982 NFL strike [169]
  • January 22, 1983: The stadium physically shakes as a capacity crowd of 54,000 chants "We Want Dallas" taunting the hated Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. The Redskins go on to defeat the Cowboys 31–17 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XVII where they beat the Miami Dolphins 27–17 to claim the franchise's first Super Bowl win.
  • March 6, 1983: The Washington Federals of the United States Football League play their first game, losing to the Chicago Blitz 28-7 before 38,007 fans at RFK stadium in the USFL's first nationally televised game. [170] The Federals never draw more than 15,000 fans again. [170]
  • September 5, 1983: Redskins' rookie cornerback Darrell Green chases down Cowboys' running back Tony Dorsett from behind to prevent him from scoring. However, the Redskins ended up losing late in the fourth quarter.
  • May 6, 1984: The Washington Federals play their final game, losing in overtime to the Memphis Showboats at RFK Stadium before 4,432 fans, the smallest crowd in USFL history. [170]
  • November 18, 1985: Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacks Redskins' quarterback Joe Theismann, severely breaking his leg and ending his NFL career. Backup quarterback Jay Schroeder comes in and leads the Redskins to a 23–21 victory on Monday Night Football.
  • January 17, 1988: Cornerback Darrell Green knocks down a Wade Wilson pass at the goal line to clinch a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. The Redskins go on to defeat the Denver Broncos 42–10 in Super Bowl XXII.
  • January 4, 1992: In pouring rain, the Redskins beat the Atlanta Falcons 24–7 in the Divisional round of the playoffs. After a touchdown scored by Redskins fullback Gerald Riggs with 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, the fans shower the field with the free yellow seat cushions given to them when they entered the stadium.
  • January 12, 1992: The Redskins beat the Detroit Lions 41–10 in the NFC Championship Game earning a trip to Super Bowl XXVI where they beat the Buffalo Bills 37–24. This was the last time the RFK held a post-season game.
  • December 13, 1992: Redskins' head coach Joe Gibbs coaches what would be his last win at RFK Stadium. The Redskins defeat the Cowboys 20–17.
  • September 6, 1993: RFK Stadium hosts its last Monday Night Football game as the Redskins open their season by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 35–16.
  • December 22, 1996: The Redskins won their last game in the stadium, defeating their arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, 37–10. A capacity crowd of 56,454 fans watched the game, tying the football record set against the Detroit Lions in 1995. It was the last professional football game played at RFK. In a halftime ceremony, several past Redskins greats were introduced, wearing replicas of the jerseys of their time. After the game, fans storm the field and rip up chunks of grass as souvenirs. In the parking lot, fans are seen walking away with the stadium's burgundy and gold seats.
Records

Bowl games

HBCU games

  • October 24, 1970 – First Howard University game at RFK, a 24–7 victory over Fisk.
  • September 30, 1972 – Grambling beat Prairie View, 38–12.
  • Timmie Football Classic (1974–1975) Grambling vs. Morgan State [172]
  • November 4, 1978 – Tennessee State vs North Carolina-Central faced off in an attempted reboot of the Capitol Classic, though renamed "A Touch of Greatness". [173]
  • Nation's Capital Football Classic (1991) – Delaware State defeated Jackson State 37–34 [174]
  • September 16, 2016 – The last Howard University game at RFK, a 34–7 loss to Hampton.

College All-Star Games

  • U.S. Bowl (1962) – A college all-star game that lasted only one season. Galen Hall was the game's only MVP. [175]
  • Freedom Bowl All-Star Classic (1986) [176]
  • All-America Classic (1993) [177]

Neutral site games for local colleges

  • October 17, 1965: Navy beat Pitt, 12–0. [178]
  • October 17, 1970: In their 4th ever meeting, Air Force beat Navy 26–3. [179]
  • November 4, 1972: Kentucky State defeated Federal City 26–8, in the only football game by a UDC school. [180]
  • October 4, 1975: Navy beat Air Force, 17–0. [181]
  • November 11, 1995: Virginia Tech clinched a share of the Big East title with a win over Temple. [182]
  • November 11, 2000: Salisbury defeated Frostburg State, 18–8 to win the 2nd Regents Cup. [183]
  • November 10, 2001: In the only college football game at RFK to go into overtime, Frostburg State beat Salisbury 30–24 to win the 3rd Regents Cup. [184]
  • September 30, 2017: Harvard defeated Georgetown, 41–2 in the last college football game at RFK. [185]

High schools

RFK has occasionally hosted high school football games, but never has done so regularly. [186] On August 14, 2018, DC Events announced the DC Events Kickoff Classic, a football tripleheader featuring six Washington, D.C., high schools, with games between Dunbar and Maret, Archbishop Carroll and Woodrow Wilson, and Friendship Collegiate Academy and H. D. Woodson. [186] The first Classic was held on September 15, 2018, and the second, only a double-header, was the following year. [186] [187] [188] The 2019 Classic represented the last official event in the stadium, coming days after the announcement that the stadium would be razed and months before the coronavirus pandemic.[ citation needed ] On September 14, 2019 the final game of any sport at RFK Stadium saw Friendship Collegiate defeat H.D. Woodson, 34–6 to win the Clash of Ward 7 Titans trophy. The last touchdown scored at RFK was on a pass from Collegiate's Dyson Smith to Taron Riddick. [189]

Soccer

D.C. United after their win in the 2004 MLS Eastern Conference finals DC United post-game victory celebration (RFK Memorial Stadium, 06-11-2004).jpg
D.C. United after their win in the 2004 MLS Eastern Conference finals

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. [80] 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), Olympic group stages for men and women (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). [80] The United States men's national soccer team played more of its matches at RFK stadium than at any other site, [80] and D.C. United played 347 regular-season matches there.

In addition to being the home stadium of DC United, the Diplomats, the Freedom, the Whips and Team America, RFK also hosted three friendly Washington Darts games in 1970. [190]

Notable soccer dates at the stadium include:

College soccer

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.

  • November 8, 1997: Maryland Terps defeated Ohio State 2–1 [213]
  • April 20, 2009: Maryland lost to Wake Forest 3–1. [214]

United States men's national team matches

The United States men's national soccer team has played more games at RFK Stadium than any other stadium. [215] 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. [216] [217] 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.

DateCompetitionTeamScoreTeamAttendance
October 6, 1977FriendlyFlag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 1–1Flag of the United States.svg  United States Unknown
May 12, 1990 Flag of the Netherlands.svg AFC Ajax 1–1 18,245
October 19, 1991Flag of North Korea (1948-1992).svg  North Korea 2–1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 16,351
May 30, 1992 1992 U.S. Cup Flag of the United States.svg  United States 3–1Flag of Ireland.svg  Republic of Ireland 35,696
October 13, 1993FriendlyFlag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 1–1 Flag of the United States.svg  United States 23,927
June 18, 1995 1995 U.S. Cup Flag of the United States.svg  United States 4–0 Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 38,615
October 8, 1995Friendly4–3Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia 10,216
June 12, 1996 1996 U.S. Cup Flag of Bolivia.svg  Bolivia 2–0Flag of the United States.svg  United States 19,350
November 3, 1996 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Flag of the United States.svg  United States 2–0Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 30,082
October 3, 1997Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica 1–1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 51,528
May 30, 1998FriendlyFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 0–0Flag of the United States.svg  United States 46,037
June 13, 1999Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1–0Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 40,119
June 3, 2000 2000 U.S. Cup 4–0Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 16,570
September 3, 2000 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) 1–0Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 51,556
September 1, 2001Flag of Honduras (1949-2022).svg  Honduras 3–2Flag of the United States.svg  United States 54,282
May 12, 2002FriendlyFlag of the United States.svg  United States 2–1Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 30,413
November 17, 20022–0Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 25,390
October 13, 2004 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) 6–0Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 22,000
October 11, 2008 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) 6–1Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 20,249
July 8, 2009 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup 2–1Flag of Honduras (1949-2022).svg  Honduras 26,079
October 14, 2009 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 2–2Flag of the United States.svg  United States 36,243
June 19, 2011 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Flag of the United States.svg  United States 2–0Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica 45,424
June 2, 2013US Soccer Centennial Match4–3Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 47,359
September 4, 2015Friendly2–1Flag of Peru (state).svg  Peru 28,896
October 11, 2016Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1–1Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 9,012

1994 FIFA World Cup matches

DateTime (UTC−5)Team No. 1Res.Team No. 2RoundAttendance
1994-06-1916:00Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 1-0Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico Group E 52,395
1994-06-2419:30Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 2-1Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia Group F 50,535
1994-06-2512:30Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 1-1Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico Group E 52,535
1994-06-2912:30Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 0-1Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia Group F 52,959
1994-07-0216:30Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 3-0Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg   Switzerland Round of 16 53,121

1996 Summer Olympics

DateTime (UTC−5)Team No. 1Res.Team No. 2RoundAttendance
1996-07-2015:00Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 2-0Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia Group A 34,796
1996-07-2112:00Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 1-0Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana Group C 45,946
1996-07-2115:00Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 2-2Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Group F 45,946
1996-07-2219:30Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 1-1Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Group A 25,811
1996-07-2318:30Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 3-2Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Group F 28,000
1996-07-2321:00Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana 3-2Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Group C 27,849
1996-07-2419:30Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1-1Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Group A 58,012
1996-07-2518:30Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 4-0Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Group F 30,237
1996-07-2521:00Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 1-1Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana Group C 30,237

Boxing

Late on May 22, 1993, 9,000 saw Riddick Bowe record a second-round knockout over Jesse Ferguson to retain his WBA heavyweight title. [218] [219] [220] On the same day Roy Jones recorded a unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins to capture the vacant IBF middleweight title.

Motor sports

Track map. Grand Prix of Washington D.C. Track Map.png
Track map.

Lap records The official race lap records at the Grand Prix of Washington D.C. are listed as:

CategoryTimeDriverVehicleDate
Grand Prix Circuit: 2.673 km (2002)
LMP900 1:03.883 [221] Rinaldo Capello Audi R8 2002 Grand Prix of Washington D.C.
LMP675 1:07.332 [221] Jon Field MG-Lola EX257 2002 Grand Prix of Washington D.C.
GT1 (GTS) 1:09.802 [221] Andy Pilgrim Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 2002 Grand Prix of Washington D.C.
GT 1:12.921 [221] Timo Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3-RS (996) 2002 Grand Prix of Washington D.C.

On July 21, 2002, the Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., was run over a 1.66-mile (2.67 km) temporary circuit laid out in the RFK stadium parking lot. The 140-lap race was the American Le Mans Series' first event in the District of Columbia, and the city's first major motor sports event in 80 years. [222]

Before the race, residents living near the stadium expressed concerns about traffic, parking, and the noise the lengthy event would create. Two months before the race, The Washington Post reported 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. [223] After the race, American Le Mans officials reneged on a promise to remove the Jersey barriers outlining the racecourse, leaving the unsightly structures in the parking lots for removal at the city's expense. [224] When the American Le Mans organization tried to hold a second race at RFK in 2003, outraged residents forced D.C. officials to cancel the city's 10-year lease with the company. No more races were ever held. [225] [226]

The venue saw a return to racing in 2014 with the Global Rallycross Championship. Much like most of the circuits for GRC at the time, the track was a temporary circuit laid out across the stadium's parking lot. Patrik Sandell won the first race, and the event returned for 2 more years. [227]

Cycling

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. [228] [229] He won $50,000 and a kiss from Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. [230] Steve Hegg won the stage. [231]

Rugby

Rugby union

On June 2, 2018, Wales national rugby union team played the South Africa national rugby union team at RFK Stadium. It was "Wales' fifth test on US soil, the previous four outings all against the United States national rugby union team. [232] " Wales ran out winners 22–20 in front of a crowd of 21,357. [233]

DateWinnerScoreOpponentCompetitionAttendance
June 2, 2018Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 22―20Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 2018 Wales Americas tour 21,357

Rugby league

DateWinnerScoreOpponentCompetitionAttendance
March 17, 1995 Four Provinces Flag.svg Ireland 24–22Flag of the United States.svg  United States Saint Patrick's Day Test -
March 17, 1996 Four Provinces Flag.svg Ireland A 26–6-

Concerts

The Grateful Dead performed here on 6/9/73, 6/10/73, 7/6/86, 7/7/86, 7/12/89, 7/13/89, 7/12/90, 6/14/91, 6/20/92, 6/25/93, 6/26/93, 7/16/94, 7/17/94, 6/24/95, and 6/25/95.

The Rolling Stones opened their 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour here with shows 8/1/94 and 8/3/94.

Michael Jackson and The Jacksons performed here in May 1974 and September 1984.

The Beatles performed a concert here in August 1966.

Pink Floyd performed a concert here on June 1, 1988, as part of their A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour and two concerts on July 9 and 10, 1994, as part of their The Division Bell Tour.

Genesis performed here on May 26, 1987, as part of their Invisible Touch Tour, and on May 19, 1992, as part of their We Can't Dance Tour.

Metallica and Guns N' Roses performed here on July 17, 1992, as part of their Stadium Tour.

From 1993 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004, rock radio station WHFS held its annual HFStival rock concert at RFK Stadium.

On July 4, 2015, the Foo Fighters held their 20th-anniversary concert at RFK Stadium.

List of concerts

Other events

In film

The stadium was featured in the climax of the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past . In the film, the stadium is damaged when Magneto uses his powers to place it as a barricade around the White House. At the end of the film, a newspaper article announces the stadium is to begin reconstruction. [250] (RFK is shown being prepped for a baseball game; however, the movie is set in 1973, two years after the Senators left for Texas.)

Washington Hall of Stars

See also Washington Nationals Ring of Honor, Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame

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 were four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Cup wins: 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. To the right of these banners was D.C. United's "Tradition of Excellence" banner, which honors John Harkes and Marco Etcheverry. To the left of those banners were four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Supporters Shield wins: 1997, 1999, 2006 and 2007. Those moved to Audi Field with D.C. United.

Public transportation

RFK Stadium sits 0.5 miles (0.80 km) 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, 96 and 97.

Related Research Articles

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