News & Politics

PHOTOS: RFK Stadium’s Final Event

Demolition paused Thursday as luminaries toasted the removal of the stadium's last orange seats.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Washington football legend Doug Williams at RFK.

The turf at RFK is now an overgrown, boggy mess. The paint on its famous curved roof has flaked away in sheets, and the famous bouncing seats are mostly gone. On Thursday, the last of the orange chairs in RFK’s lower bowl were removed in what was billed as the stadium’s final event before it’s demolished, a process that’s expected to wrap up sometime next year.

“We can’t allow for this to be the picture of RFK in our town,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser during a ceremony. “We were disappointed recently, for example, when DC was not chosen as a site for the 2026 World Cup. And we know the biggest reason for that is we didn’t have a stadium that could support the events.”

The future of the site remains unclear—the Department of the Interior owns its 190-acre campus, which has been empty since D.C. United moved to Audi Field in 2018.

Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor (and Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter) Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spoke as well, reminiscing about how her family would descend on the stadium during football game days. Her mother, Ethel Kennedy, would pack PB&Js, cookies, and “a huge Thermos of daiquiris” for the 24 people in their party with 12 tickets between them, she says. “What was the ticket taker going to say—no to Mrs. Robert Kennedy?”

Washington football legend and Washington Commanders executive Doug Williams wore a “49” number patch on his jacket to honor Bobby Mitchell, the first Black star for the Washington team, who integrated only under pressure from the Kennedys. Pointing to the visitor’s side of the stadium, he told Washingtonian, “It wasn’t a whole lot of opponents sitting over there” when he led the team as quarterback. That’s not always the case with the Commanders these days at FedEx Field, but Williams said the organization is “trying to get back to that.” At the lectern, he called RFK “hallowed ground.”

“This was the right size for a football field,” Williams said. “There’s so much history in here, and it’s sad to see it go down. And then the last of the last seats, man, it’s tough, but it has to happen. Because we got new ideas, don’t we?”

He and other speakers mentioned the indoor sports arena DC hopes to build on the site. Former D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid teared up when talking about the stadium. He talked about working out amid mice in the stadium’s gym and said, “This place gave me that sanctuary to stay away from trouble. Come in, stay focused, and go after my goals, go after my dreams.”

Hamid.

After the ceremony, the VIPs posed for photos with the last orange seats, which are for sale. And then people who are working to demolish RFK loaded the seats onto a small yellow vehicle and drove them away.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.