Besides whether the Redskins get into the playoffs, the other cliffhanger this year is whether RFK stadium gets into the black.
The staduim has loomed large at the end of East Capital Street since 1959 -- a massive pile of debt never able to generate enough revenue to repay the money spent on construction.
Last December, when the final payment came due ($19.8 million in principal and about $800,000 in interest), it was repaid by a combination of federal and city funds -- removing a major liability. For years, the city has kept up with most of the interest payments.
Under a bill pending before Congress, the city is expected to receive title to the stadium. The city already owns the Armory, the other part of the so-called Starplex.
So far, District officials appear to have done little thinking about what owning the stadium will mean to the city financially. But according to the financial director for the stadium management, the city may be inheriting a stadium that is a loser no more. For one thing, having the building paid off is a plus, just as paying a mortgage off would be for a homeowner.
Last year the stadium lost only slightly more than $25,000 -- down from $37,000 the previous year. "We have no projections for fiscal 1980, but before depreciation, we expect we will be in the black," financial director John King said. "We think we've done very well in 1979 and think we'll do even better in 1980."
The Armory broke even in fiscal 1979, according to King.
Both are operated by the Stadium-Armory Board, made up of Mayor Marion Barry, National Guard Commandant Maj. Gen. Cunningham Bryant and Stuart Long, a Capital Hill restaurateur who is the private-sector member.
The stadium's major tenants are the Redskins and the Diplomats. The biggest improvement in its finances would come if baseball returned to Washington to fill it up in the summer. Other tenants, including the One Nation Under God rally, Howard University and high school all-star games, now fill some of the idle days.
The critical element in generating more revenue for the Armory is air conditioning, King said. The barn-like building is empty much of the summer for obvious reasons.
The city is building a convention center that may compete with the stadium-armory complex for some events, but King said he expects little impact: "We weathered the Capital Centre.I think we will weather the convention center."