By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Mayor Muriel Bowser and Keith Anderson, interim deputy mayor for planning and economic development (DMPED), announced legislation that would permit a 99-year lease for the D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (RFK) on July 27. The proposal includes a new ‘DMPED Sports Team’ to lead the district’s sports capital endeavors.

“From the moment I became mayor, I made it a point for the District to get control of RFK and control our destiny,” said Bowser at the live-streamed #SportsCapital rally. “The legislation that was introduced today will allow for a 99-year lease of RFK, which is very important to us. It will allow for a mixed-use of the land – sport, recreation, housing and restaurants.”

[It means] jobs and opportunities for D.C. residents,” continued Bowser. 

Rep. James Comer (R-KY-01) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.- At Large) officially introduced H.R. 4984,  the “D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Revitalization Act,” during the rally, according to Bowser.

The bill will also transfer the National Park Services’ ownership of the historical stadium to the District, make way for 190 acres of land and a new Department of Parks and a Recreation facility.

Though the RFK revitalization act has support from D.C. Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie (Ind.-D.C.-At-Large) and Matthew Frumin (D-D.C.-Ward 3), who were also in attendance at the rally, longtime Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has an issue with the bill.

“I do not oppose the bill and the extension of the lease of RFK to the District,” said Mendelson in a statement via Twitter. “At the same time, the primary challenge with developing the land is funding. We are maxed out in our borrowing over the life of the capital improvement plan adopted for Fiscal Year 2024-2029. Any development of the campus must come at the expense of private developers. To expect otherwise would come at the expense of District Schools, public housing, better roads, etc.”

The Washington Commanders, formerly the Washington Redskins, used to play at RFK Stadium in 1996 and many fans are hopeful that the team will return. The Commanders currently play their home games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. while they await a more permanent location. Though residents may be excited at a possible return, some elected officials in the area are against the NFL team moving into RFK before other matters are settled. 

“The NFL continues to withhold any report of Beth Wilkinson’s investigation conducted in 2020-2021,” said Mendelson. “I have said consistently that before the District government provides any assistance to the Commanders, the investigative reports relating to sexual harassment have to be released. We are halfway there. But to move on, now, without continuing to insist on full disclosure is to abet the coverup.”

“With the transfer of ownership, the Commanders can no longer be hurt by releasing the report,” he continued.

According to the mayor’s office, Bowser has already set aside $60 million to help create the sports complex at RFK, providing space for activities like boxing and gymnastics.

“We know how important sports are not only to D.C.’s economy by generating tax revenue, but also to our culture by celebrating traditions that bring us together as a city,” said Anderson.  “DMPED and our Sports Team are excited to work with District agencies and our partners to support the success of our teams, both on and off the field.”

The sports team will propose and manage recreational and professional sports in the District, influence the new generation of D.C. coaches and athletes and commission a sports study to find funding mechanisms that maintain and attract sports to D.C.

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.

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