D.C. officials plan to unveil an array of possibilities for the future of the RFK Stadium property Monday night, among them a new 65,000-seat Redskins stadium and a basketball and hockey venue capable of replacing Verizon Center.
All the proposals include a raft of suggested recreation facilities for a city with a booming population, among them playing fields, a field house, a water park and a sports-and-entertainment complex that officials likened to Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.
Two of the six proposals, outlined by Events DC, the District’s sports-and-entertainment arm, lay out a path for the Redskins to return to the District, though serious obstacles remain should Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and the D.C. Council move to reach a deal with owner Daniel M. Snyder.
Officials also said for the first time that they are considering the 190-acre riverfront property as a possible location for a 20,000-seat arena equipped to serve the Washington Wizards and Capitals.
Ted Leonsis, majority owner of those teams, has in recent years raised the prospect of relocating when their Verizon Center lease expires in 2027 — the same year Snyder’s lease expires at FedEx Field, where the Redskins began play in 1997.
Still, a major professional sports venue is the furthest off and the most expensive option among the ideas envisioned for the site. In the meantime, officials said they were focused on providing residents and neighbors with something more than parking lots, an aging stadium and the 75-year-old D.C. Armory.
In the next three to five years, Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive of Events DC, said he would like to build public athletic fields, a market and a family sports-and-entertainment complex regardless of whether a major sports venue is ultimately added in the area.
“We want to make sure that we get reaction from the community and understand what they want to see and what they’d like on this site,” O’Dell said.
Architects from Dutch design firm OMA produced two broad design concepts for reconfiguring the property, which slopes down toward the Anacostia River and is covered mostly with irregularly used parking lots.
In both concepts, the architects envision tearing down 55-year old RFK, considered too obsolete and decrepit to be restored, and introducing green space and attractions connecting the surrounding neighborhood, the Metro station and the Anacostia River.
In the first design, a plinth (or platform) would be constructed north-south through the site, allowing parking to be built beneath. The second design would maintain the area’s current configuration but add parking garages at the northern and southern ends.
For both designs, the architects outlined three scenarios: one with an NFL stadium, one with an arena and one with no sports anchor but a space for cultural attractions such as a concert hall, science center or aquarium. Events DC plans to explain the six options to residents Monday evening at the convention center.
Serious obstacles to any of the long-term uses remain, particularly cost. Although O’Dell and Brown said they would not perform a financial analysis on the ideas until gathering feedback from residents, the District is close to reaching a self-imposed cap on borrowing after setting aside funds for school improvements, a streetcar extension, the D.C. United soccer stadium and a collection of homeless shelters proposed by the mayor.
Recently constructed NFL stadiums have cost more than $1 billion; the Barclays Center basketball and hockey arena in Brooklyn cost $1 billion.
Officials with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the Leonsis-led company that owns Verizon Center, said that they had not seen the proposals and declined to comment.
Any deal with Snyder would carry another layer of complexities. His newly hired architectural firm, Bjarke Ingels Group of Denmark, recently unveiled its own glitzy stadium design, featuring an undulating roof line and a moat. But the team mentioned no sites.
Events DC talked to more than a dozen potential users for the site, among them college athletic conferences, Olympic training groups and amateur and professional sports leagues; the Redskins did not return their call. A spokesman for the team declined to comment.
The football team’s name also remains an issue. The District owns the stadium and leases the land from the National Park Service, which is under the purview of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who has that said the name should be changed.
Extending the lease beyond its current expiration in 2038 would also require federal legislation, according to Peter May, an associate regional director at the National Park Service.
“If they propose something that requires a 30-year life span, like a new stadium, the District would need to get authorization from Congress to do that,” he said.
Max Brown, chairman of Events DC, said it would be up to Bowser and elected leaders to determine the best long-term use of the property.
“There are things that aren’t in our control, but what is in our control is to design something for the community, something that is accessible to families and children and represents and supports everyone in Washington,” he said.