Around Town: Events DC Is Investing in the City

by Erica Moody

Southeast neighborhoods are being revitalized with new sports and entertainment offerings.

The ribbon cutting of the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights on Sept. 22 (Photo by Tony Powell)

“Our city moves forward when all parts of the city move forward,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said to cheers at the September grand opening of the new Entertainment & Sports Arena in Congress Heights. “A lot of people come here during election time and never come back.”

Thanks to the efforts of a determined mayor, Events DC (the city’s official convention and sports authority) and Monumental Sports and Entertainment, an oft-neglected part of the nation’s capital will benefit from business and job opportunities that the new arena will bring to Ward 8. The nearly $65 million, 118,000-square-foot, 4,200-seat arena on the site of the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital will be home to the Washington Mystics and the Capital City Go-Gos and a practice center for the Wizards as well as a setting for concerts from big-name musical acts like Mary J Blige and Cage the Elephant.

“Nothing’s been more gratifying to me than this project because of the passion of the community and how it will be transformational for the city,” said Events DC president and CEO Gregory O’Dell.

RFK Stadium masterplan rendering (Image Courtesy of OMA and Robata)

And while this new arena is bringing business to Congress Heights, the new RFK Stadium Campus redevelopment is set to transform Ward 6. In September, Events DC broke ground on the first phase of the $489 million redevelopment of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium near the Anacostia River that is converting a surrounding 27 acres of asphalt parking into an exciting new complex, with restaurants, shopping and parks. There will be more than 200,000 square feet of fields to accommodate soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball and more; youth sports areas available to the public, picnic areas, playground, walking and bike paths, dedicated parking, a market hall and even a democracy memorial to educate visitors. Events DC will manage the fields in collaboration with an operator for local scheduling and maintenance assistance. The estimated total cost for the fields is $32 million. Construction on the multi-purpose recreational fields are estimated to open for play in March 2019.

If Mayor Bowser has her way, the 190-acre campus will bring the Redskins back to Washington.

“We think all of our professional sports teams should be within city limits,” she told politicians and players recently at the team’s annual “Welcome Home” luncheon.

It remains to be seen whether that will happen, but we do know that the neighborhood will benefit nonetheless.

“Here at RFK, Washingtonians will have it all—the amenities of a big city, access to a thriving waterfront and fantastic outdoor fields and play space,” Bowser has said. And considering how expeditious she and Events DC were with the Entertainment & Sports Arena buildup, the Redskins may be in town sooner than you’d expect.

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Washington Life. 

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