Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium

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Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, commonly known as RFK Stadium, is a multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C., located about two miles (3 km) due east of the U.S. Capitol building. It is the current home of the AT&T Nation's Football Classic.

The stadium opened 56 years ago as District of Columbia Stadium (often shortened to D.C. Stadium) in October 1961, and was constructed as a joint venture of the D.C. Armory Board and the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is now owned and operated by Events DC (the successor agency to the DC Armory Board), a quasi-public organization affiliated with the city government under a long-term lease from the National Park Service, which owns the land. The lease expires in 2038. The previous venue for baseball and football in Washington was Griffith Stadium, about four miles (6 km) northwest.

RFK Stadium has been home for a number of major professional sports teams, including the NFL's Washington Redskins (19611996; moved east to FedExField in suburban Maryland in 1997), the American League's Washington Senators (19621971; moved to Arlington, Texas and became the Texas Rangers in 1972), and the National League's Washington Nationals (20052007; until their permanent home Nationals Park was completed in 2008). It has hosted international soccer matches in the 1994 World Cup, 1996 Summer Olympics, and 2003 Women's World Cup. It also hosted a college football bowl game, the Military Bowl (20082012), before its move in 2013 to Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. [9] The U.S. men's national soccer team played 22 matches at RFK Stadium between 1977 and 2013, more than any other stadium. From 1996 to 2017, D.C. United of Major League Soccer played its home matches at RFK Stadium prior to moving to Audi Field for 2018.

The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, [138] who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration. [139]

RFK was one of the first major stadiums designed specifically as a multi-sport facility for both football and baseball. Although there were stadiums that served this purpose before, such as Forbes Field in Pittsburgh (1909), Cleveland Municipal Stadium (1932), Baltimore's Memorial Stadium (1950), New York's Yankee Stadium (1923) and Polo Grounds (1890), as well as Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914) and Comiskey Park (1910), RFK was one of the first to employ what became known as the " cookie-cutter " design.

Local teams


As a professional football venue, RFK Stadium was home to the NFL's Redskins for 36 seasons, from 1961 through 1996.

The team's 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 Beatles performed their last concert in Washington, D.C., on August 15, 1966, at D.C. Stadium. The team's first win in the stadium was over its future archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, on December 17. 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 Redskins played 266 regular-season games at RFK Stadium. [69]

In its twelfth season, RFK saw its first pro football playoff game on Christmas Eve 1972, a 16–3 win over the Green Bay Packers. The stadium hosted the NFC Championship Game five times (1972, 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1991) and the Redskins won them all. In the Super Bowls that followed, Washington won three (XVII, XXII, XXVI) of the five.


The expansion Washington Senators of the American League played at RFK Stadium from 1962 through 1971. They played their first season in 1961 at Griffith Stadium, now the site of the medical center for Howard University.

In its ten seasons as the Senators' home field, RFK Stadium was known as a hitters' park. Slugger Frank Howard, (6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), 255 lb (116 kg), 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 he hit with his home runs are painted white, rather than the gold of the rest of the upper deck. Left fielder Howard came to the Senators from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. He also hit the last home run in the park's tenure as the Senators′ home field, in the sixth inning on September 30, 1971. With two outs in the top of the ninth, [11] a fan riot turned a 7–5 Senators lead over the New York Yankees into a 9–0 forfeit loss, the first in the majors in 17 years. [12] [13]

The Senators only had one season over .500, in 1969, and never made the postseason. The stadium hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1962 (first of two) and 1969, both won by the visiting National League. President Kennedy threw out the first ball at the 1962 game.


Formerly the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals of the National League played their first three seasons (20052007) at the stadium, moving to Nationals Park in 2008. While the Nationals played at RFK, it was the fourth-oldest active stadium in the majors, behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium. [14]

Unlike the Senators era, as the Nationals' home field, RFK was 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, José Guillén with 24. However, in his lone season with the team in 2006, Alfonso Soriano hit 46 home runs.

D.C. United

D.C. United of Major League Soccer played at RFK Stadium from the team's debut in 1996 until 2017. When the Nationals shared the field from 2005 to 2007, there were criticisms regarding problems with the playing surface and even the dimensions of the field. With its new stadium, Audi Field, due open in June 2018, D.C. United played its final game at RFK Stadium on October 22, 2017, completing 22 seasons at the stadium, during which the team won four league titles. [70] At the time, RFK Stadium was the longest-used stadium in MLS since the league's inception. D.C. United′s departure left RFK Stadium with no professional sports team as a tenant. After moving to Audi Field, however, D.C. United will continue to use the outer practice fields at RFK Stadium for training and will lease the locker rooms and basement space at RFK. [69]

Other former tenants

Professional football

College football

Professional soccer

‡ Part-time


The stadium's design was perfectly circular, attempting to facilitate both football and baseball. It was the first to use the so-called " cookie-cutter " concept, an approach also used in Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Except for the stadiums in Houston, San Diego, and Oakland (the former is still standing but is no longer actively used, while the latter two are still active), RFK Stadium ultimately outlasted all of the aforementioned stadiums.

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.

As a baseball park, RFK was a particular target of scorn from baseball purists, largely because it was one of the few stadiums with no lower-deck seats in the outfield. The only outfield seats are in the upper deck, above a high wall. According to Sporting News publications in the 1960s, over 27,000 seats—roughly 60% of the listed capacity of 45,000 for baseball—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. On the debit side, however, the first ten rows of the football configuration were nearly at field level, making it difficult to see over the players. The baseball diamond was aligned due east (home plate to center field).

Panoramic view of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 2012, looking east (from the west corner, the former home plate area)

A complex conversion was necessary, at a cost of $40,000 per switch, to convert the stadium from a football configuration to baseball and back again; in its final form, this included rolling the third-base lower-level seats into the outfield along a buried rail, dropping the hydraulic pitcher's mound 3 feet (0.9 m) 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 were 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. With the Nationals' arrival 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. The majority of the upper-deck seats normally were not made available for D.C. United matches, so the stadium's reduced capacity normally was not problematic for the club.

The football/soccer field alignment is northwest to southeast, approximately along the baseball diamond's first base line.

During the years when the stadium was used only for Redskins games, the rotating seats remained in the football configuration. If an exhibition baseball game was scheduled, the left-field wall was only 250 feet (76 m) from home plate, and a large screen was erected in left field for some games.

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, despite its small size (it never seated more than 56,000 people), because of the stadium's design and the proximity of the fans to the field when configured for football, the stadium was extremely loud when the usual sell-out Redskins crowds became vocal. Legend has it that Redskins head coach George Allen would order a large rolling door in the side of the stadium to be opened when visiting teams were attempting field goals at critical moments in games so that a swirling wind from off the Potomac and Anacostia rivers might interfere with the flight of the kicked ball.

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

Events D.C. —the city agency which operates RFK Stadium— began a strategic planning process in November 2013 to study options for the future of the stadium, its 80 acres (320,000 m 2) campus, and the nonmilitary portions of the adjacent D.C. Armory. Events D.C. said one option to be studied was demolition within a decade, while another would be the status quo. The strategic planning process also included design and development of options. The agency said that RFK Stadium has generated $4 million to $5 million a year in revenues since 1997, which did not cover operating expenses. [16] In August 2014, Events D.C. chose the consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey to create the master plan. [17]

Seating capacity


The South Exterior of RFK Stadium in August, 2017

The dimensions of the baseball field were 335 feet (102 m) down the foul lines, 380 feet (116 m) to the power alleys and 408 feet (124 m) 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 (120.3 m) to the power alleys in left; 395 feet (120 m) to the right-field power alley; and 407.83 feet (124.3 m) to center field. The section of wall containing the 380-foot (116 m) 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.

The approximate elevation of the playing field is ten feet (3 m) above sea level.


The stadium was opened in October 1961 as the District of Columbia Stadium (D.C. Stadium for short). The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, [138] who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration. [139]

As attorney general in the early 1960s, Kennedy's Justice Department played a role in the racial integration of the Redskins. Along with Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally-owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players. [8]

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 [36] were all potential names in 2005 and 2006, but no agreement was ever finalized.

Sports events


  • April 9, 1962: The Washington Senators defeat the Detroit Tigers 4-1 in the first baseball game played at D.C. Stadium. President John F. Kennedy – the brother of the stadium′s future namesake, then- United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy – throws out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • July 10, 1962: With 45,480 in attendance, D.C. Stadium hosts its first Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the first of two All-Star Games Major League Baseball held during the 1962 season. President John F. Kennedy throws out the first pitch. The game ends in a 3-1 National League win.
  • June 12, 1967: The Senators defeat the Chicago White Sox 6-5 in the longest night game in major league history up to that time. The 22-inning game lasts 6 hours and 38 minutes and ends at 2:43 a.m. EDT.
  • April 7, 1969: With President Richard Nixon and a crowd of about 45,000 looking on, Ted Williams makes his managerial debut as manager of the Washington Senators in a game against the New York Yankees at RFK Stadium. The Yankees win 8-4. [71]
  • July 23, 1969: The stadium hosts its second and last Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a National League 9–3 victory before 45,259 fans. Postponed by a rainout the night before, the game takes place in the afternoon, the final MLB All-Star Game played during daylight hours on the United States East Coast. President Richard Nixon, scheduled to attend and throw out the first pitch the evening before, misses the game because of the postponement, and Vice President Spiro Agnew throws out the first pitch.
  • September 30, 1971: In the Senators' final home game, the Senators lead the New York Yankees 7–5 with two outs in the top of the ninth. After an obese teenager runs onto the field, picks up first base, and runs off, fans storm the field and tear up bases, grass patches, and anything else they can find for souvenirs. The Senators are ruled to have forfeited the game, 9–0. [14] It is the last game played in Washington by a Washington, D.C., MLB team until 2005.
  • July 19, 1982: At an Old-Timers' Day exhibition game attended by over 29,000 fans, 75-year-old Hall of Famer Luke Appling hit a home run against the National League's Warren Spahn. [39] 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 (79 m) to the left-field foul pole, far shorter than normal. However, Warren Spahn applauded him as he rounded the bases.
  • April 5, 1987: RFK Stadium hosts an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets, the first MLB game played in Washington, D.C., since a pair of exhibition games in 1972. The game is a sell-out, with 45,614 tickets sold, and a crowd of 38,437 actually attends on a cold, rainy afternoon. Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez throws a one-hitter, and the Mets win 1-0. [72] [73]
  • April 14, 2005: The Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5–3 before a crowd of 45,596 in their first game in Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch. The Nationals go on to sweep the four-game series.
  • June 18, 2006: Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who will become known as "Mr. Walk-Off" for his penchant for hitting game-ending home runs, hits his first walk-off home run off New York Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Nats a 3-2 victory. [74]
  • September 16, 2006: The Washington Nationals' Alfonso Soriano steals second base in the first inning of the game against the Milwaukee Brewers to become the fourth player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season. [40]
  • September 23, 2007: The Washington Nationals defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 5–3, before a crowd of 40,519, in the final baseball game played at RFK Stadium. The win gives the Nationals an overall home record of 122–121 in three seasons at the stadium.

College football

Professional football


Satellite view of stadium in pre-2005 soccer configuration; the darker red seats at the northwest end are not part of the current setup.
A Washington Nationals game at RFK, June 2005.

Although not designed for soccer, RFK Stadium became a center of American soccer, especially in the last 30 or so years before D.C. United departed, rivaled only by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in terms of its history as a soccer venue. [69] It is the only facility in the United States that hosted the North American Soccer League's Soccer Bowl (in 1980), the FIFA World Cup (in 1994), an Olympic group stage (in 1996), the MLS Cup (in 1997, 2000, and 2007) and the FIFA Women's World Cup (in 2003). [69] The United States men's national soccer team played more of its matches at RFK stadium than at any other site, [69] and D.C. United played 347 regular-season matches there. Notable soccer dates at the stadium include:

United States men's national team matches

The United States men's national soccer team has played more games at RFK Stadium than any other stadium. Some have suggested that due to the nature of RFK and its quirkiness that it would be a suitable national stadium if US Soccer were ever to seek one out. Several prominent members of the national team have scored at RFK, including Brian McBride, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Landon Donovan. Winners are listed first.

Date Competition Team Score Team Attendance
October 6, 1977 Friendly China PR 1–1
D.C. United after their win in the 2004 MLS Eastern Conference finals
May 12, 1990 Friendly
RFK Stadium during a D.C. United soccer match in March 2009
AFC Ajax
United States 18,245
October 19, 1991 Friendly North Korea 2–1 United States 16,351
May 30, 1992 1992 U.S. Cup United States 3–1 Republic of Ireland 35,696
October 13, 1993 Friendly Mexico 1–1 United States 23,927
June 18, 1995 1995 U.S. Cup United States 4–0 Mexico 38,615
October 8, 1995 Friendly United States 4–3 Saudi Arabia 10,216
June 12, 1996 1996 U.S. Cup Bolivia 2–0 United States 19,350
November 3, 1996 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States 2–0 Guatemala 30,082
October 3, 1997 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Jamaica 1–1 United States 51,528
May 30, 1998 Friendly Scotland 0–0 United States 46,037
June 13, 1999 Friendly United States 1–0 Argentina 40,119
June 3, 2000 2000 U.S. Cup United States 4–0 South Africa 16,570
September 3, 2000 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States 1–0 Guatemala 51,556
September 1, 2001 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Honduras 3–2 United States 54,282
May 12, 2002 Friendly United States 2–1 Uruguay 30,413
November 17, 2002 Friendly United States 2–0 El Salvador 25,390
October 13, 2004 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States 6–0 Panama 22,000
October 11, 2008 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States 6–1 Cuba 20,249
July 8, 2009 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup United States 2–1 Honduras 26,079
October 14, 2009 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Costa Rica 2–2 United States 36,243
June 19, 2011 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup United States 2–0 Jamaica 45,424
June 2, 2013 US Soccer Centennial Match United States 4–3 Germany 47,359
May 31, 2015 Friendly El Salvador 0-2 Honduras Unknown
September 4, 2015 Friendly United States 2-1 Peru 28,896
October 11, 2016 Friendly United States 1-1 New Zealand 9,012


Motor sports

  • On July 21, 2002, the American Le Mans Series held its first event in Washington, D.C. The Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. 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. Originally a ten-year agreement was signed to host the race on a yearly basis. [3] Residents living near the stadium were concerned about traffic and parking, but also about the excessive noise levels, the lengthy event would create. Citizens were outraged when they learned that District officials had ignored laws and regulations requiring an environmental impact assessment for the race, and that Le Mans officials had lied to the city about noise levels. Local citizens were further angered when American Le Mans racing officials reneged on a promise to remove the Jersey barriers outlining the racecourse from stadium parking lots, leaving the unsightly structures behind and preventing the lots from being used for parking. When the American Le Mans organization tried to hold a second race at RFK in 2003, outraged residents successfully forced D.C. officials to cancel the city's ten-year lease with the company (no more races were ever held).

Other events


The Beatles performed a concert here in August, 1966. From 1993 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004, rock radio station WHFS held its annual HFStival rock concert at RFK Stadium.

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.

In film

The stadium was prominently featured in the climax of the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in May 2014. In the film, Magneto uses his powers to place the stadium as a barricade around the White House; the stadium is partially damaged. At the end of the film, a newspaper article announces the stadium is to begin reconstruction. [58] (RFK is shown being prepped for a baseball game; however, the movie is set in 1973, two years after the Senators left for Texas.)

Washington Hall of Stars

See also Washington Nationals Ring of Honor

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. To the left of those banners are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Supporters Shield wins: 1997, 1999, 2006 and 2007.

Public transportation

RFK Stadium is within 1 2 mile (0.80 km) of and easily accessible from the Stadium-Armory station of the Washington Metro. The station is served by the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines. It is also served directly by Metrobus lines B2, D6, E32 (at Eastern High School), 96 and 97.

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