You might see more Washingtonians outdoors the weekend of July 16 and 17, and that’s because there’s a ton of free activities planned, including free Capital Bikeshare rentals across the region, free kayak and paddleboard rentals at Key Bridge Boathouse, and free entry to the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
What’s with all the free events? It’s all part of a giant campaign, called “United Outside,” that REI is launching in anticipation of the opening of their over 51,000-square-foot flagship store in NoMa’s Uline Arena on October 21.
“When we think about engaging community—and that’s kind of the lens through which we look at stepping into a place and putting a flagship in place—we start with the idea of how do we show up in an inherently local way,” says REI CEO Jerry Stritzke.
The weekend of free activities July 16 and 17 is just part of what the brand has organized: between now and the store’s opening, REI will host 100 events in the DC region.
“We thought it was a great way to bring people together [to] find common ground and a shared passion for the outside,” says Stritzke.
Given that the flagship store is scheduled to open a little over two weeks before the presidential election—which Stritzke noted isn’t ideal timing—the campaign is looking to make some noise of its own by playing off an election that Stritzke describes as having “unprecedented levels of noise associated with it.”
The 100 events will include an outdoor screening of Jumanji on June 22 with local food trucks nearby to fuel the fun, followed by a bikes and brews night at Hellbender Brewery on June 23 and many others activities throughout the summer.
As for the flagship store itself, Stritzke says it will be set up as a collection of shops within the store, and that it will offer a broader assortment of gear than can be found in any of the brand’s seven other stores in the Washington region. The brand has close to 300,000 members in their co-op in the DC area, and has engaged with close to 16,000 Washingtonians through their REI Outdoor School in the last year, so they’re confident in their choice to bring a flagship into the market.
“It’s a very fit community, it’s a community that is passionate about the outdoors, it’s a diverse community, it’s a young community it’s a vibrant community—all of those things I think correlate well both with our core values and kind of the experiences that we tend to support and embrace,” says Stritzke.
A list of REI events planned for the United Outside campaign can be found online here. The REI flagship is slated to open on October 21 at Uline Arena, 1140 Third St., NE.