House Votes to Transfer Lease of RFK Stadium to DC, Paving Way for Possible Commanders Move

The lease would be for 99 years, with the option to extend.
House Votes to Transfer Lease of RFK Stadium to DC, Paving Way for Possible Commanders Move
A view of Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy Stadium in Wahington D.C. on June 12, 2002. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Jackson Richman

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Feb. 28 that would allow the federal government to lease the property that includes Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium to the District of Columbia, paving the way for a possible move of the NFL’s Washington Commanders.

The final tally was 348-55. The proposal required two-thirds support to pass. There were 151 Republicans and 197 Democrats who voted in favor of the bill, while 49 Republicans and six Democrats voted against.

The bill would require the Interior secretary to transfer the federal government’s control of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus to the District of Columbia within 180 days. The District of Columbia would be responsible for any costs associated with the transfer.

The lease would be for 99 years, with the option to extend.

The measure would permit the local government in the nation’s capital to develop the 174-acre land that includes the deteriorating 62-year-old stadium, which is no longer in use and has been incrementally demolished.

The functions for which the District of Columbia can use the land include, but are not limited to, “stadium purposes, including training facilities, offices, and other structures necessary to support a stadium; commercial and residential development; facilities, open space, and public outdoor opportunities, which may include supporting cultural activities, educational activities, and recreational activities,” according to the legislation.

The bill requires the District of Columbia to have at least 30 percent of the property consist of parks and open space, to improve public access to the Anacostia River and not obstruct the Anacostia River Trail, to provide parking facilities, to have sufficient public safety, and to reduce traffic and noise for the residential areas nearby.

The District of Columbia would, according to the bill, have to do a survey of the land and submit the survey to Congress.

Were the bill to become law, this would allow for the Washington Commanders to move to Washington, where they would play in a new stadium on the property.

The football team’s lease at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, expires in 2027. FedEx has opted out of its $205 million naming rights agreement—two years early.

“We thank FedEx Corporation for its longstanding naming rights sponsorship and their work with our team and community and look forward to their continued partnership within the Commanders family,” the team said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“We have already started the process of identifying our next stadium naming rights partner—a partner who will play a crucial role in ushering in the next era of, not only Commanders football, but also a robust slate of top live events and concerts,” they continued.

No federal funding will be allowed for the development of the stadium property.

The inactive stadium was used by teams including the Washington Redskins, which is now the Commanders; the soccer team DC United; and the MLB’s Washington Nationals.

Ahead of the vote, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which advanced the bill, said on the House floor that without the legislation “this land in our nation’s capital will remain unused with ongoing maintenance costs and environmental liabilities remaining the full responsibility of the National Park Service—an ongoing burden for the American taxpayer.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) touted the benefits of what the bill would do, including allowing for mixed-use development and enabling the District to get “significant revenue.”

However, not everyone is on board with the bill.

Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), who represents a congressional district just outside the nation’s capital, said that the bill would give Washington “an unfair advantage.”

“It’s most certain not a level playing field when one interested jurisdiction receives a transfer of federal government-subsidized land,” he said, noting that he is not against Washington trying to get the Commanders to move into what would be the southeast part of the District.

The Commanders, under the new ownership group led by managing partner and billionaire businessman Josh Harris, is looking to build a new identity following a controversial ownership period under the infamous Dan Snyder, who sold the team for $6.05 billion in 2023. It was the most expensive sale in sports history. The team is likely to select a quarterback in the NFL Draft in April.

The Commanders are the worst team in terms of work conditions, according to a survey of players released on Feb. 28.
Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
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