Farewell, RFK. Thanks for the Memories

If you walked into the rusty, dilapidated stadium named for Robert Francis Kennedy on Dec. 8 for the kickoff of the Farewell RFK Stadium campaign, you shared an initial emotion with everyone else: sadness — looking at the seatless stands and fallow field. Luckily, a feeling of gratitude emerged as speakers told their RFK stories.

Mayor Muriel Bowser was joined by former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and others to mark the ceremonial removal of the last orange wooden seats of RFK Stadium’s lower bowl. Events DC kicked off the campaign to celebrate and honor the legacy of D.C.’s most iconic sports and concert venue.

“D.C. has made a lot of good memories at RFK, and now as we say farewell to this stadium, we are looking ahead to the future. We are thinking about all the possibilities for this 190-acre campus — the opportunities to honor the legacy of Senator Kennedy with housing, jobs, opportunity and more,” Bowser said. “We look forward to building and opening a world-class sports complex here.”

Speakers spoke from the heart about the old stadium, so special to Washingtonians. Some choked up a little. RFK’s daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, had the more heartfelt memories, especially when her mother, Ethel Kennedy, would bring more people to the place than tickets allowed. Who would refuse the widow of the slain senator whose name is on the entrance?

Standing in front of orange chairs about to taken away, the lineup also included Angie Gates and Max Brown of Events DC, Gregory McCarthy of the Washington Nationals, former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams (now with the Commanders), Bill Hamid of D.C. United, Michelle Kang of the Washington Spirit, Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto and Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. Each had their own story.

Memories floated about. The Washington Redskins .. whoops, the Commanders … as well as the Washington Senators, the Washington Nationals, D.C. United — and the first game for the first women’s professional soccer league in the world. Here performed the Beatles, Grateful Deal, Madonna, Michael Jackson and …

RFK Stadium opened in 1961 as D.C. Stadium and was renamed in honor of Sen. Kennedy in 1969. Kennedy also served as U.S. Attorney General from 1961-1964. After serving as a sports and concert venue until 2019, the stadium has since been closed to the public and is now undergoing selective demolition.

The D.C. budget includes $60 million to create the SportsComplex@RFK, an indoor sports complex that will accommodate gymnastics, indoor track and field, boxing and more. The budget also includes $18.5 million to build pedestrian and bicycle bridges across the Anacostia River to connect residents to River Terrace, the RFK Campus, Hill East as well as Kingman and Heritage Islands.

Events DC says it has “preserved memorabilia from the stadium, including plaques, seats, and signage. An initial selection of orange wooden and plastic seating from RFK Stadium’s lower bowl available for public purchase. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of stadium seats and memorabilia will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and St. Coletta of Greater Washington. Those interested in purchasing a seat can learn more HERE.”

RFK Stadium will be demolished by the end of 2023.

More information is available at FarewellRFK.com.

Smoot Construction workers remove the last of RFK’s orange seats. Photo by Bill Starrels.

Mayor Muriel Bowser at the “Farewell RFK” event Dec. 8. Photo by Bill Starrels.

Council member Brooke Pinto and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend talk with Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. Photo courtesy of Brooke Pinto.

Bill Hamid of D.C. United and former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams. Photo by Bill Starrels.


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