Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium: Wikis

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Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
RFK Stadium
RFKStadiumLogo150.PNG
RFK Stadium
Former names District of Columbia (D.C.) Stadium (1961–1968)
Location 2400 East Capitol Street Southeast, Washington, D.C. 20003
Coordinates 38°53′23″N 76°58′18″W / 38.88972°N 76.97167°W / 38.88972; -76.97167Coordinates: 38°53′23″N 76°58′18″W / 38.88972°N 76.97167°W / 38.88972; -76.97167
Broke ground 1959
Opened October 1, 1961
Owner Washington Convention and Sports Authority
Operator Washington Convention and Sports Authority
Surface Grass (Prescription Athletic Turf)
Construction cost U.S.$20 million
Architect George A. Dahl; Osborn Engineering
Capacity 45,596 (since 2005)
Pre-2005 capacity for football and soccer: 56,692
Field dimensions Left Field - 335 ft (102 m)
Left-Center - 380 ft (116 m)
Center Field - 410 ft (125 m)
Right-Center - 380 ft (116 m)
Right Field - 335 ft (102 m)
Backstop - 54 ft (16 m)
Tenants
Washington Redskins (NFL) (1961–1996)
George Washington Colonials (NCAA) (1961–1966)
Washington Senators (II) (AL) (1962–1971)
Washington Whips (USA / NASL) (1967–1968)
Washington Darts (NASL) (1971)
Washington Diplomats (NASL / USL1) (1974–1981, 1991)
Team America (NASL) 1983)
Washington Federals (USFL) (1983–1984)
D.C. United (MLS) (1996–present)
Washington Freedom (WUSA) (2001–2003)
Washington Nationals (NL) (2005–2007)
EagleBank Bowl (NCAA) (2008–present)
Washington Freedom (WPS) (2009-present)

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, better known as RFK Stadium or RFK, is a multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C., United States, and the current home of Major League Soccer's D.C. United.

Opened in October 1961 as District of Columbia Stadium (D.C. Stadium for short), RFK was the home of the NFL's Washington Redskins for 36 seasons, from 1961 through 1996. RFK Stadium also served as the home to the expansion Washington Senators of the American League from 1962 through 1971. The National League's Montreal Expos relocated to Washington as the Washington Nationals in 2005 and played at RFK through 2007; the club has since moved to Nationals Park, which opened in 2008. Rock concerts have also taken place at the stadium. It has hosted international soccer matches in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, 1996 Summer Olympics and 2003 Women's World Cup.

The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. As Attorney General, Kennedy's Justice Department played a role in the racial integration of the Redskins. Along with Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally-owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players.

RFK was the first major stadium designed specifically as a multisport facility for both football and baseball. During the Nationals' tenure at the stadium, it was the fourth-oldest active stadium in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.

Contents

History

RFK Stadium was home for 36 seasons to the Redskins, whose return to prominence as a football power began the same year (1960) that the original baseball Senators played their final season, relocating in 1961 to Minnesota as the Twins. The Redskins' first game in D.C. Stadium was a 24-21 loss to the New York Giants on October 1, 1961. The team's first win in the stadium was over its future archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, on December 17, 1961. This was the only win in a 1–12–1 season, and it came on the final weekend of the regular season. The Redskins' last win at RFK was a 37–10 victory over the Cowboys on December 22, 1996.

The stadium's design was nearly circular, attempting to facilitate both football and baseball. It was the first to use the so-called "cookie-cutter" concept, an approach also used by Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. However, as would become the case with every other stadium where this was tried, the design was not ideal for either sport due to the different shapes and sizes of the playing fields. As the playing field dimensions for football and baseball vary greatly, seating had to accommodate the larger playing surface. In the case of RFK Stadium, this resulted in the first ten rows of the football configuration being nearly at field level, making it difficult to see over the players.

As a baseball park, RFK was a particular target of scorn from baseball purists, largely because it had no lower-deck seats in the outfield. The only outfield seats are in the upper deck, above a high wall. It was said that RFK was "the first ballpark built that had only an upper deck." According to Sporting News publications in the 1960s, over 27,000 of RFK's 45,000 baseball seats were in the upper tier or mezzanine levels. The lower-to-upper proportion improved for the Redskins, with end-zone seats filling in some of the gaps.

A complex conversion was necessary, at a cost of $40,000 per switch, to convert the stadium from a football/soccer configuration to baseball and back again; in its final form, this included rolling the 3rd-base lower-level seats into the outfield along a buried rail, dropping the hydraulic pitcher's mound 3 feet into the ground, and laying sod over the infield dirt. Later facilities were designed so the seating configuration could be changed much more quickly and at a lower cost. The conversion was only required several times per year during the Senators' joint tenancy with the Redskins, but became much more frequent while the Nationals and D.C. United shared the stadium during the mostly-concurrent MLB and MLS seasons; in 2005, the conversion was made more than 20 times. Originally the seats located behind the stadium's third-base dugout would be removed for baseball games and put back in place when the stadium was converted to the football (and later soccer) configuration. When these sections were in place, RFK seated approximately 56,000 fans. Following the Washington Nationals' move to RFK in 2005, this particular segment of the stands was permanently removed to facilitate the switch between the baseball and soccer configurations. These seats were not restored following the Nationals' move to Nationals Park, leaving the stadium's seating capacity at approximately 46,000. D.C. United do not normally make the tickets for the majority of the upper-level seating available for purchase, and the stadium's reduced capacity thus is not normally problematic for the club.

During the years when the stadium was used only for Redskins games, the rotating seats remained in the football configuration. If a baseball game was scheduled, the left-field wall was only 250 feet from home plate, and for some exhibition baseball games, a large screen was erected.

Some of RFK's quirks endear the venue to fans and players. The large rolling bleacher section is less stable than other seating, allowing fans to jump in rhythm to cause the whole area to bounce. Also, because of the stadium's design and the proximity of the fans to the football field, the stadium was extremely loud when the usual sell-out Redskins crowds became vocal. Legend has it that former Redskins coach George Allen would order a large rolling door opened in the side of the stadium when visiting teams were attempting field goals at critical moments in games so that a swirling wind from off the Potomac and Anacostia rivers would interfere with the flight of the kicked ball.

Aerial photo of the stadium in 1988 facing the Capitol.

Since the stadium is on a direct sight line with the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol, light towers were not allowed; instead, arc lights were placed on its curved, dipping roof.

The stadium hosted its first baseball All-Star Game in its first season of 1962, which was attended by Robert Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy (in whose administration Robert Kennedy served as Attorney General), and the 1969 All-Star Game, which was played in the daytime, after a rainout the night before. It turned out to be the final MLB All-Star Game played during the daytime hours.

Another notable baseball moment occurred in a Cracker Jack Old Timers game in 1982, when 75 year-old Hall of Famer Luke Appling hit a home run. Although he had a .310 lifetime batting average, Appling only hit 45 home runs in 20 seasons. However, because the stadium had not been fully reconfigured, it was just 260 feet to the left-field foul pole, far shorter than normal.

In its tenure as the Senators' home field, RFK Stadium was known as a hitters' park. Slugger Frank Howard, a six-foot-seven-inch tall, 255-pound left fielder, hit a number of tape-measure home runs in his career, a few of which landed in the center field area of the upper deck. The seats Howard hit with his home runs are painted white, rather than the gold of the rest of the upper deck. Howard also hit the last home run in the park's original tenure, on September 30, 1971. With one out remaining in the game, a fan riot turned a 7–5 Senators lead over the New York Yankees into a 9–0 forfeit loss. However, in its tenure as the Nationals' home field, RFK has been known as a pitchers' park. While Howard hit at least 44 home runs for three straight seasons (1968–70), the 2005 Nationals had only one hitter with more than 15 home runs, Jose Guillen with 24.

From 1993 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004, former rock radio station WHFS held its annual HFStival rock concert at RFK Stadium.

Dimensions

Satellite view of stadium in pre-2005 soccer configuration.

The dimensions of the baseball field were 335 feet down the foul lines, 380 feet to the power alleys and 408 feet to center field during the Senators' time. The official distances when the Nationals arrived were identical, except for two additional feet to center field. After complaints from Nationals hitters it was discovered in July 2005 that the fence had actually been put in place incorrectly, and it was 394.74 feet to the power alleys in left; 395 feet to the right-field power alley; and 407.83 feet to center field. The section of wall containing the 380 foot sign was moved closer to the foul lines to more accurately represent the distance shown on the signs but no changes were made to the actual dimensions.

Naming rights

On April 14, 2005, just before the Nationals' home opener, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission announced an agreement with the Department of Defense under which the military would pay the city about $6 million for naming rights and the right to place recruiting kiosks and signage in the stadium. In return, the stadium would be dubbed Armed Forces Field at RFK Stadium. This plan was dropped within days, however, after several prominent members of Congress questioned the use of public funds for a stadium sponsorship. Similar proposals to sell the naming rights to the National Guard, ProFunds (a Bethesda, Maryland investment company) and Sony were rumored that season, but no agreement was ever finalized.

Site future

On November 15, 2006, local news outlets reported preliminary, informal talks between members of the government of the District of Columbia and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder about tearing down RFK Stadium and building the Redskins a new domed stadium on the site after the Nationals and D.C. United move to new stadiums in the city in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Reports say that Snyder would sell off the FedExField site and use that money to build the new stadium which would seat between 90,000 and 100,000 fans. Mayor Adrian Fenty has stated he is preparing a written proposal to the Redskins ownership to bring the team back to the District.

Notable games and events

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American Football

  • After trailing the Cowboys 24-6 halfway through the third quarter on November 28, 1965, quarterback Sonny Jurgensen leads the Redskins to 21 fourth-quarter points and a 34–31 comeback victory.
  • The Redskins beat the New York Giants 72–41 on November 27, 1966. The 113 combined points are the most ever scored in an NFL game.
  • On December 31, 1972, the Redskins defeat the Cowboys 26–3 in the NFC Championship game to earn a trip to Super Bowl VII.
  • In a Monday Night Football game on October 8, 1973, Redskins safety Ken Houston stops Cowboys' receiver Walt Garrison at the goal line as time expired to secure a win.
  • December 17, 1977 – the Redskins defeat the Los Angeles Rams 17–14 in what would be head coach George Allen's final game with the team.
  • October 25, 1981 – the Redskins narrowly beat the New England Patriots 24–22 to earn head coach Joe Gibbs his first win at RFK Stadium.
  • January 22, 1983 – the stadium physically shakes as a capacity crowd of 54,000 chant "We Want Dallas" taunting the hated Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. The Redskins go on to defeat the Cowboys 31-17 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XVII where they beat the Miami Dolphins 27–17 to claim the franchise's first Super Bowl win.
  • September 5, 1983 – Redskins' rookie cornerback Darrell Green chases down Cowboys' running back Tony Dorsett from behind to prevent him from scoring. The Redskins go on to lose the game 31–30.
  • November 18, 1985 – Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacks Redskins' quarterback Joe Theismann severely breaking his leg and ending his NFL career. Backup quarterback Jay Schroeder comes in and leads the Redskins to a 23–21 victory.
  • January 17, 1988 - Cornerback Darrell Green knocks down a Wade Wilson pass at the goal line to clinch a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. The Redskins go on to defeat the Denver Broncos 42–10 in Super Bowl XXII.
  • January 4, 1992 – In a pouring rain, the Redskins beat the Atlanta Falcons 24–7 in the Divisional round of the playoffs. After a touchdown scored by Redskins fullback Gerald Riggs with 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, the fans shower the field with the free yellow seat cushions given to them when they entered the stadium.
  • January 12, 1992 – the Redskins beat the Detroit Lions 41–10 in the NFC Championship game earning a trip to Super Bowl XXVI where they beat the Buffalo Bills 37–24.
  • December 13, 1992 – Redskins' head coach Joe Gibbs coaches what would be his last win at RFK Stadium. The Redskins defeat the Cowboys 20–17.
  • December 22, 1996 – The Redskins win their last game in the stadium, defeating their arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, 37–10. In a halftime ceremony, several past Redskins greats were introduced, wearing replicas of the jerseys of their time. After the game, fans storm the field and rip up chunks of grass as souvenirs. In the parking lot, fans are seen walking away with the stadium's maroon and yellow seats.
  • December 20, 2008 – Wake Forest defeats Navy 29-19 in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, the first bowl game to be played in Washington, D.C.

Baseball

A Washington Nationals game at RFK, June 2005.

Soccer

D.C. United after their win in the 2004 MLS Eastern Conference finals
RFK Stadium during a D.C. United soccer match in March 2009

Boxing

Concerts

Motor Sports

  • On July 21, 2002, the American Le Mans Series held its first event in Washington, DC. The National Grand Prix was run on a temporary circuit laid out in the RFK stadium parking lot, and was the first major motor sports event held in the District of Columbia in 80 years.[11] Originally a ten-year agreement was signed to host the race on a yearly basis.[12] However, due to noise complaints from local residents the contract was canceled after the first edition and the event has not been run since.

Volunteer Service

  • On January 19 2009, the day before the Presidential Inauguration, A Day Of Service for Our Military was held at RFK Stadium as a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. This was a joint operation by Serve DC and Operation Gratitude. At this event, 12,000 volunteers made over 80,000 care packages for American Troops overseas. [1]

Washington Hall of Stars

During the Redskins' tenure, the Washington Hall of Stars was displayed on a series of white-and-red signs hung in a ring around the stadium's mezzanine, honoring D.C. sports greats from various sports. With the reconfiguration of the stadium, it was replaced by a series of dark green banners over the center field and right field fences in order to make room for out-of-town scoreboards and advertising signage. There are 15 separate panels honoring 82 figures. Nationals Park also hosts a smaller version of the display.

To the right of Panel 15 are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Cup wins: 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. To the right of these banners is D.C. United's "Tradition of Excellence" banner, which honors John Harkes and Marco Etcheverry.

Public transportation

RFK Stadium is within a half-mile and easily accessible from the Stadium-Armory station of the Washington Metro. The station is served by the Blue and Orange Lines, and will add the Silver Line in the future. It is also served directly by Metrobus lines B2, D6, E32 (at Eastern High School), 96 and 97.

Food vendors

RFK Stadium is home to such eateries as:

  • Forescore Grill
  • The Diamond Club
  • Burrito Brothers
  • Dominic's of New York
  • Stars and Stripes Brew
  • Red, Hot & Blue BBQ
  • AR Seafood
  • Cantina Marina

Tenants

Current

Former

‡ Part-time

Gallery

References

External links


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