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DC leaders break ground on public soccer fields on RFK campus

Rendering

In the shadow of RFK Memorial Stadium, D.C. leaders held a groundbreaking Wednesday for the first phase of a major re-development project at the RFK campus. It's the start of a plan to transform nearly 27 acres of asphalt into a new sports complex.

Construction on new multi-purpose athletic fields will begin next month. This is just the beginning of a $489 million project.

Neighbors have long asked for such green space, especially for their kids.

Lot 7 at RFK where the groundbreaking happened mostly sits vacant. But the RFK site has also been used for festivals, go-kart racing and even snow melting after the 2016 blizzard.

The ocean of asphalt will soon transform into three soccer fields.

“It's 190 acres - the campus. We're using 27 of it for the fields,” said Events DC Board of Directors Chair Max Brown.

The new campus will also feature a picnic area, playground and 2,900 square foot pavilion with restrooms.

“We're thrilled as a neighborhood to finally see things move forward and finally get the asphalt up,” said local ANC Bob Coomber.

But when longtime Washingtonians hear "RFK stadium,” they think of Washington's football team. And there's disagreement over whether the long-term vision should also include a new NFL stadium at the old RFK site, creating a home in the District for the only sports franchise left that’s outside D.C.

“And you know what happens when they move here? Mayor, what happens? They win,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans during his remarks at the event, referring to other franchises that have returned to Washington.

Mayor Bowser has made clear she wants the team to return. But she said, first, the District is trying to secure long-term control of the RFK campus or at least an extended lease.

“I think that this is really the only space in the region that makes sense for the team. And for us, nothing happens without control of the land,” Bowser said.

But there is also opposition to a new NFL stadium. Opponents include some neighbors and Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen.

“I think when you build [a stadium], this is what you get. You get a lot of parking lots for something that's used eight days out of the year,” Allen said.

Pro-football or not, soccer field construction begins next month, opening for play next spring.

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