District athletes and city officials gathered Wednesday at RFK — originally the District of Columbia Stadium — to kick off a campaign celebrating a place that created a generation’s worth of memories for fans but which faces an uncertain future in the modern world of sports and mega-concerts.
Charles Mann, the defensive end who played 11 years and won three Super Bowls with the Redskins, recalled walking into RFK from the parking lot and downing many cups of coffee before games. Standing on the field in a business suit, Mann pointed to the spot where cornerback Darrell Green appeared to break up the final play in the 1988 NFC title game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“He says he tipped the ball, but he didn’t,” Mann said with a laugh.
RFK memories are the focal point of a celebration of the stadium’s 50 years. Called “I Remember,” the three-month tribute includes a free concert, an appreciation day featuring historic memorabilia and the selection of an All-Stadium Team, which allows fans to vote for favorite athletes and entertainers who performed there.
The future of RFK, with its 45,423 seats but antiquated concessions and other facilities, remains in doubt. Officials with the District government and Events D.C., the quasi-public entity that manages the stadium, are marketing the building to sports leagues and event organizers. In 2008, RFK hosted the District’s first college bowl game, now entering its fourth year, and this year, it hosted a rebirth of the Howard University-Morehouse College football rivalry. Events D.C. recently announced plans to build a skate park on stadium grounds in a multiyear agreement to host the Maloof Money Cup skateboarding competition.
“This old girl has a lot of fight in her yet,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, chief executive of Events D.C., at the campaign’s kickoff.
The D.C. United still calls RFK home but is desperate to find a new stadium of its own. There are recurring calls to build a stadium for the Redskins on the site, but the team is bound to FedEx Field in Landover until 2027.
“What better location for a Redskins stadium,” said lawyer William N. Hall, an Events D.C. board member who played a major role in bringing the Nationals to town, “whenever that happens.”
Nonetheless, nostalgia continues to provide hope that RFK’s magic will return.
“It was a sad day when the Redskins left RFK Stadium,” Mann said.
Information on the “I Remember” campaign can be found at RFKStadium50.com.