House Passes Bill for Redevelopment of RFK Stadium

Will it attract the Commanders back to D.C.?

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Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser may be inching closer to bringing the NFL’s Washington Commanders back to the team’s former D.C. home.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4984 Wednesday, paving the way for the D.C. government to redevelop the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and the land around it. The bill, which passed 348-55, now heads to the Senate.

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“[Wednesday night’s] vote was a significant step forward in our efforts to unlock the full potential of the RFK campus — for our residents and visitors, the community, and D.C.’s comeback,” Bowser said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with the Senate to swiftly advance this legislation.” 

The vote was the latest step in a much longer process to potentially bring the Commanders back to the District when their lease at Commanders Field in Landover, Md., expires in 2027.

In September, the House Oversight Committee approved legislation to extend the District’s long-term lease of the stadium land, owned by the federal government, for an additional 99 years. It also expands D.C.’s ability to redevelop the land beyond just a new stadium and recreation areas, which are the only two avenues that the current lease allows. 

The bill calls for D.C. to pay all costs related to the land transfer and demolition of the RFK site to make way for a modern stadium and a new mixed-use campus, which could include both retail and office uses.

As part of Wednesday’s legislation, the plan would also set aside 30 percent of the land for open space that could be used as a park or for other outdoor uses. 

In February, the Commanders unveiled plans for a $35 million renovation to Commanders Field (recently changed from FedEx Field), its current home in Landover, Md., Not surprisingly, Maryland’s congressional delegation did not vote in favor of the bill, as they prefer the NFL franchise stay in Prince George’s County.

Washington’s football team has played in Maryland since 1997. There has been plenty of interest from the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. governments to house the team in the future, and the new ownership group, led by Josh Harris, has been mum about what’s ahead.

The football team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, played at RFK from 1961 to 1996. The stadium has been used for a multiple of sports since, but has been without a home team since soccer’s D.C. United transferred to Audi Field in 2017. 

Attracting the Commanders back to D.C. would be a big get for the mayor — and a potential game changer for the District. D.C. may soon lose two of its biggest sports teams, the Washington Wizards and Capitals, as Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis has agreed to move both teams from D.C.’s Capital One Arena to a new, publicly funded arena in Alexandria, Va., as part of a $2 billion entertainment district that will be developed by JBG Smith 

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.