For over 55 years, RFK Stadium, formerly D.C. Stadium, has stood on the banks of the Anacostia River. Constructed in 1961, it has long been a landmark of DC sports. The Redskins called RFK home for 36 seasons, including their three Super Bowl championship seasons. The Washington Senators played there from 1961 to 1972, but they never won a World Series. RFK Stadium also hosted five group-stage matches during the 1994 World Cup, and the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team has more wins at RFK than any other stadium in the world.
D.C. United, one of the original teams of Major League Soccer and RFK's current tenant, have called the stadium home since their inception in 1996. Two decades later, D.C. United has done little to update what has now become an antiquated relic. The place just looks neglected, which is a shame, considering its history. Massive patches of rust can be seen on the exterior of the stadium, many of the seats are broken, and the upper deck is closed off for MLS games.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The 200-level -- or main -- concourse at RFK is filled with concession stands offering all sorts of Central American fare. Peruvian chicken, quesadillas, carne asada, plantains, and churros are just some of the ethnic food offered here. They also have barbecue, cheese steaks, ice cream, funnel cakes, and the like. A full list of concessions and their locations can be found on D.C. United's website.
My personal favorite is the pupusas. For those of you who don't know what a pupusa is, it is a traditional Salvadorian dish that consists of two corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and pork and served with homemade coleslaw. They can be found outside sections 205, 209, 227, 312, and 317. Three of these amazing things cost $6. It's worth it. Carne asada literally means "roasted meat" and will run you $12, which is still worth it. Honestly, all of the Hispanic food is worth the price. If you don't like Hispanic food, you'll have a rough time.
As for drinks, soda is $5, Gatorade is $4, and a bottle of Aquafina - the same bottle you can buy a case of for $12 at Food Lion - also costs $4. Now to alcohol. Imported beer such as Heineken, Tecate, and Guinness all cost $10. All domestic beer is set at $8. The lemonade stand also offers more than just lemonade. Add vodka to this American classic and pay $10. I would suggest doing that yourself before the game.
Lot #8 is where the supporter groups tailgate before the game. Here you will find some food trucks and corn hole, but the party is somewhat subdued, thanks to all the restrictions that come with being in the nation's capital. The entire upper deck is completely closed off for MLS games. That's over half of the stadium. With the upper deck, the capacity is a touch over 45,000. Without it, the capacity shrinks to under 20,000. The 100 level seats along the northeast sideline are home to the official supporter groups of D.C. United. The stands here were designed to move up and down with the movement of the crowd. However, if you are not sitting in or behind those sections, you really won't catch much.
Spending too much time in the concourses looking for food can also get depressing very quickly. Aside from the food, there is nothing but chipped concrete and rusted iron. I'll have more on the concourses later in this review.
There really is nothing within walking distance of the stadium, and it's not a place you want to get caught hanging out in at night. If you do plan on being in the area before the game, head on over to Old Town D.C., a section of D.C. with old buildings, murals, and great food. Star and Shamrock is an Irish/Jewish pub in Old Town that offers your traditional Irish Pub fare, along with Jewish classics and a few crossovers. It's only about 10 minutes away by car; I wouldn't advise walking. Also in Old Town is a place called Dangerously Delicious Pies. All of the pies are prepared fresh in-house. You can buy by the slice or take the whole pie. They also do quiche.
There's a Metro station a couple of blocks away with trains that will take you into the heart of the city.
The D.C. United supporter groups take up sections 127-129. These are people who show up game in and game out, rain or shine to support their team. While the rest of the stadium might not be quite as boisterous, they are no less knowledgeable or loyal. They know all of the players and most of the coaching staff, both current and past. D.C. United has won four MLS Cup championships, as well as a CONCACAF Championship in 1998. The fans at RFK remember those days, and they will be more than happy to tell you about them.
There is plenty of parking in the lots surrounding the stadium and costs $20. Getting in isn't too bad, but getting out can be a bit of a hassle. Just be patient and you'll be fine. If you don't feel like driving through the city or dealing with post game traffic, park outside the city and take the Metro to the Stadium/Armory stop. The Orange, Blue, and Silver lines will all take you to the stadium. These three lines will also take you to the Smithsonian Museums (which are all free) and the National Mall.
Inside the stadium is where things start to get hairy. The 100-300 levels are all located in the lower seating bowl, and one portal can lead to multiple sections. The signs marking the sections are small and often hard to find, if they exist at all. Restrooms aren't too scarce, but they're about as old and dirty as the rest of the stadium. I was only able to find two water fountains in the main concourse, and only one of them worked, though I'm not sure that what came out of it was entirely water. There are TV's located around the concourses and in the 300 level, but most of them are small and have been there for over a decade.
One thing to look out for is the Mezzanine Level. This is the ring above the lower deck and attached to the bottom of the upper deck. While it does provide shelter from the rain, the second row - there are only two rows - is obstructed-view.
The history and ticket prices here are about the only things going for this place. Tickets run from $25 to $60-plus for club seats. The $25 seats offer a pretty good view, and you can usually move around in the 300 level. D.C. United has a new stadium in the works which they plan to move into in 2018, so keeping up with RFK makes no sense at this point.
Game day programs are free, which is always a plus.
DC United is the most decorated club in the history of Major League Soccer. Rich in tradition with passionate fans, United play in RFK Stadium, the second oldest venue in the league, built in 1961. When the Houston Dynamo move into their new venue in 2011, the DC will stand alone with the oldest stadium in the league. United make do with what they have, but the most storied club in league history deserve a new venue.
I mean, I've definitely seen worse. RFK definitely has a certain charm. But it pales in comparison to other soccer-specific venues in this country.
My RFK experience is from the short time frame that the Nationals spent there, from 2005-2007, but I sure hope DC United have improved upon the massive shortcomings I experienced there.
On the afternoon I went, which was an extremely-hot August 2005 weekday, the fans were non-existent; granted, the team just moved from Montreal and were all-but-out of the playoffs, so they were going to be pretty apathetic. And because it was super-hot in a concrete bowl, there was no escaping the heat.
The only bright spots were the ample parking (and easy connection to the Washington Metro) and the fact you're just minutes from all the popular tourist spots in DC; the immediate neighborhood, though, is something to be desired.
So, I hope DC United have been able to turn the place around, because it's not like the glory days of Redskins; then again, the cookie-cutter stadiums were never something to behold anyway.
Old decrepid building that moves no matter what level you are on.
Food & beverage - decent and average for a stadium, nothing special
Atmosphere - great in some areas of the stadium, dead in others
Access - easy to get to from car or subway.
Fans - great but sparse compared to other MLS stadiums.
Return on Investment - really do not feel like the stadium was worth the price of the ticket.
My dad loves Chevy El Caminos. Apparently they were popular for a while. So popular, in fact, that there were even a few knock-offs. Who else remembers the Subaru Brat?
I never got the appeal of the El Camino. I still can't tell if I find them more hideous or ridiculous, but it doesn't really matter. My dad's is now more than 25 years, which, by law, makes it a historic antique collectible in his state. I can no longer deny the history nor the appeal, even if it's not for everyone.
Well, that's RFK Stadium.
I started watching MLS after college, and DCU was looking for a new stadium. Somehow, 10 years have gone by. MLB briefly returned to RFK, then left, then a family of racoons moved in. From what I hear, the racoons haven't left, and neither has United.
(The RFK stadium site has a complicated federal status. That status has combined with a whole host of local politics to make DCU's stadium search a Sisyphean task.)
At 51, RFK has seen better days. But even in its prime, it probably wouldn't score highly on this site. It's a "multipurpose concrete donut." If you've ever been to one of the 60s-era cookie-cutters (Three Rivers Stadium, QualComm, Busch, the Vet, etc.), then you've essentially been to RFK. It's one of the last examples of an unfortunate-if-practical era in stadium design.
But unlike most of its class, RFK is still standing. It's a window into a different era of stadia. This is how millions of people saw their first games. If you look around, you can still spot some of the original wooden seats. It's a throwback--not to a classic era, but to a different and acceptable one. Stadiums of this era weren't as nice as the ones we have now, but they were a whole lot more cost-effective. And they had some other benefits, too.
DCU has a decent fan club culture. The tailgates are great (it's easy to drive in or take the metro. Or take a LONG, only slightly ill-advised, walk from the touristy parts of DC). And if you feel the stadium shaking...like, really, seriously shaking...it's ok; that's just the fan clubs making the most of this old place. If you want to get beer poured on you, sit with the fan clubs. If you want to watch them do their thing while staying dry, sit behind them. If you want no part of it, ask for a seat on the "quiet side." There's a place for everyone here, from drunken frat boys to 5th birthday parties and everyone in between.
United games are great, but RFK's a dump. But I love many dumps, and I hope this one never goes away. That day will come, and it will both be far too soon, and not nearly soon enough.
Tip: Washington, DC, has a large El Salvadorian expat population. So large, in fact, the El Salvador's national soccer team plays occasional home games here. Regardless of who is playing, though, you taste (literally) the Salvadorean influence on the pupusa stand on the second level. By far the best food in the stadium and, by default, that entire part of town.
Ask any long-time DC area resident what comes to mind when they hear ‘RFK’ and it may conjure up memories of Frank Howard slugging the ball out of the park in the ‘60s for the Washington Senators, or concerts by artists such as the Beatles, The Jackson 5 and U2. Most likely it will bring a flood of reminiscing about the most popular tenant – the Washington Redskins.
The ‘Sons of Washington’ won all three of their Super Bowl titles while calling RFK home and have yet to capture that magic at their new residence. The Senators left town in the early 70’s and while the Nationals called Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium home for a few years after they relocated from Montreal, they too moved on to their new address at Nationals Park in 2008.
Opened as DC Stadium in 1961, the current home of the DC United was renamed to honor the memory of the Senator from Massachusetts in January of 1969, months after his death. The stadium held over 56,000 for football, but the current capacity is 19,467 as the upper deck has been closed to create a more intimate setting for soccer. DC United is currently signed to play at RFK through the 2013 season as it works to secure a new stadium in another location in the DC metro area.
LOOK RFK ITS HAPPNIN K??? SO WHAT IF TIS not wild, not and other things dc socer fans lovie it untill they get a new staidum in the area!!! but this is a ncie leigt bleepin historic place!!!
The age, size, and design (for baseball and NFL) hurt the atmosphere greatly and there are plans for a soccer-specific facility in DC that I hope work out. Stadium is in a rather lifeless part of DC but has easy Metro and bus access to/from the more lively parts of town.
1341 H St NE
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