Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium

Not to be confused with John F. Kennedy Stadium.
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium

RFK Stadium from the east in 1988,
looking towards the U.S. Capitol
Former names District of Columbia Stadium
Address 2400 East Capitol Street SE
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′24″N 76°58′19″W / 38.890°N 76.972°W / 38.890; -76.972Coordinates: 38°53′24″N 76°58′19″W / 38.890°N 76.972°W / 38.890; -76.972
Public transit

Blue Line Blue Line Silver Line Silver Line

Orange Line Orange Line
Owner District of Columbia
Operator Events DC
Capacity Baseball:
43,500 (1961)
45,016 (1971)
45,596 (2005)
56,692 (1961)
45,596 (2005–present)
20,000 (2012–present) (MLS)
Field size Left Field: 335 ft (102 m)
Left-Center: 380 ft (116 m)
Center Field: 410 ft (125 m)
Right-Center: 380 ft (116 m)
Right Field: 335 ft (102 m)
Backstop: 54 ft (16 m)
Surface TifGrand Bermuda Grass[1] (Prescription Athletic Turf)
Broke ground July 8, 1960[2]
Opened October 1, 1961
55 years ago[3]
Construction cost US$24 million
($190 million in 2016 dollars[4])
Architect George Leighton Dahl, Architects and Engineers, Inc.
Structural engineer Osborn Engineering Company
Services engineer Ewin Engineering Associates
General contractor McCloskey and Co.
D.C. United (MLS) (1996–2017)
Washington Redskins (NFL) (1961–1996)
Geo. Washington Colonials (NCAA) (1961–1966)
Washington Senators (II) (MLB) (1962–1971)
Washington Whips (USA / NASL) (1967–1968)
Washington Darts (NASL) (1971)
Washington Diplomats (NASL) (1974–1981)
Team America (NASL) (1983)
Washington Federals (USFL) (1983–1984)
Washington Freedom (WUSA) (2001–2003)
Washington Nationals (MLB) (2005–2007)
Military Bowl (NCAA) (2008–2012)
Washington Freedom (WPS) (2009–2011)

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, commonly known as RFK Stadium, is a multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C., located about two miles (3 km) due east of the U.S. Capitol building. It is the current home of D.C. United of Major League Soccer and the AT&T Nation's Football Classic,[5] as well as the de facto national stadium of the U.S. men's national soccer team.

The stadium opened 55 years ago as "District of Columbia Stadium" in October 1961, and was constructed as a joint venture of the D.C. Armory Board and the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is now owned and operated by Events DC (the successor agency to the DC Armory Board), a quasi-public organization affiliated with the city government under a long-term lease from the National Park Service, which owns the land. The lease expires in 2038.[6] The previous venue for baseball and football in Washington was Griffith Stadium, about four miles (6 km) northwest.

RFK Stadium has been home for a number of major professional sports teams, including the NFL's Washington Redskins (19611996; moved east to FedExField in suburban Maryland in 1997), the American League's Washington Senators (19621971; moved to Arlington, Texas and became the Texas Rangers in 1972), and the National League's Washington Nationals (20052007; until their permanent home Nationals Park was completed in 2008). It has hosted international soccer matches in the 1994 World Cup, 1996 Summer Olympics, and 2003 Women's World Cup. It also hosted a college football bowl game, the Military Bowl (20082012), before its move in 2013 to Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.[7]

The stadium was renamed in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy,[8] who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration.[9]

RFK was one of the first major stadiums designed specifically as a multi-sport facility for both football and baseball. Although there were stadiums that served this purpose before, such as Cleveland Municipal Stadium (1932), Baltimore's Memorial Stadium (1950), New York's Yankee Stadium (1923) and Polo Grounds (1890), as well as Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914) and Comiskey Park (1910), RFK was one of the first to employ what became known as the "cookie-cutter" design; for example, while the design of certain stadiums like those mentioned above enabled both sports to be played there, RFK and several others after it were circular in design and constructed in a specific manner that was new at the time.

Local teams


As a pro football venue, RFK Stadium was home to the NFL's Redskins for 36 seasons, from 1961 through 1996.

The team's return to prominence as a football power began the same year (1960) that the original baseball Senators played their final season, relocating in 1961 to Minnesota as the Twins. The Redskins' first game in D.C. Stadium was a 24–21 loss to the New York Giants on October 1, 1961. The Beatles performed their last concert in Washington, D.C., on August 15, 1966, at D.C. Stadium. The team's first win in the stadium was over its future archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, on December 17. This was the only win in a 1–12–1 season, and it came on the final weekend of the regular season. The Redskins' last win at RFK was a 37–10 victory over the Cowboys on December 22, 1996.

In its twelfth season, RFK saw its first pro football playoff game on Christmas Eve 1972, a 16–3 win over the Green Bay Packers. The stadium hosted the NFC Championship Game five times (1972, 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1991) and the Redskins won them all. In the Super Bowls that followed, Washington won three (XVII, XXII, XXVI) of the five.


D.C. Stadium in 1963, looking west

The expansion Washington Senators of the American League played at RFK Stadium from 1962 through 1971. They played their first season in 1961 at Griffith Stadium, now the site of the medical center for Howard University.

In its ten seasons as the Senators' home field, RFK Stadium was known as a hitters' park. Slugger Frank Howard, (6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), 255 lb (116 kg), hit a number of tape-measure home runs in his career, a few of which landed in the center field area of the upper deck. The seats he hit with his home runs are painted white, rather than the gold of the rest of the upper deck. Left fielder Howard came to the Senators from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. He also hit the last home run in the park's original tenure, in the sixth inning on September 30, 1971. With two outs in the top of the ninth,[10] a fan riot turned a 7–5 Senators lead over the New York Yankees into a 9–0 forfeit loss, the first in the majors in 17 years.[11][12]

The Senators only had one season over .500, in 1969, and never made the postseason. The stadium hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1962 (first of two) and 1969, both won by the visiting National League. President Kennedy threw out the first ball at the 1962 game.


Formerly the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals of the National League played their first three seasons (20052007) at the stadium, while Nationals Park was under construction. While at RFK, it was the fourth-oldest active stadium in the majors, behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium.[13]

Unlike the Senators era, as the Nationals' home field, RFK was known as a pitchers' park. While Howard hit at least 44 home runs for three straight seasons (1968–70), the 2005 Nationals had only one hitter with more than 15 home runs, José Guillén with 24. However, in his lone season with the team in 2006, Alfonso Soriano hit 46 home runs.

D.C. United

D.C. United of Major League Soccer has played at RFK Stadium since the team's debut in 1996. When the Nationals shared the field from 2005 to 2007, there were criticisms regarding problems with the playing surface and even the dimensions of the field. The team recently broke ground on a new soccer-specific stadium, which will leave RFK Stadium with no tenants once the United move out.

Other former tenants

‡ Part-time


The stadium's design was perfectly circular, attempting to facilitate both football and baseball. It was the first to use the so-called "cookie-cutter" concept, an approach also used in Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Except for the stadiums in Houston, San Diego, and Oakland (the former is still standing but is no longer actively used, while the latter two are still active), RFK Stadium ultimately outlasted all of the aforementioned stadiums.

However, as would become the case with every other stadium where this was tried, the design was not ideal for either sport due to the different shapes and sizes of the playing fields. As the playing field dimensions for football and baseball vary greatly, seating had to accommodate the larger playing surface.

As a baseball park, RFK was a particular target of scorn from baseball purists, largely because it was one of the few stadiums with no lower-deck seats in the outfield. The only outfield seats are in the upper deck, above a high wall. According to Sporting News publications in the 1960s, over 27,000 seats—roughly 60% of the listed capacity of 45,000 for baseball—were in the upper tier or mezzanine levels. The lower-to-upper proportion improved for the Redskins, with end-zone seats filling in some of the gaps. On the debit side, however, the first ten rows of the football configuration were nearly at field level, making it difficult to see over the players. The baseball diamond was aligned due east (home plate to center field).

Panoramic view of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 2012, looking east (from the west corner, the former home plate area)

A complex conversion was necessary, at a cost of $40,000 per switch, to convert the stadium from a football configuration to baseball and back again; in its final form, this included rolling the third-base lower-level seats into the outfield along a buried rail, dropping the hydraulic pitcher's mound 3 feet (0.9 m) into the ground, and laying sod over the infield dirt. Later facilities were designed so the seating configuration could be changed much more quickly and at a lower cost. The conversion was only required several times per year during the Senators' joint tenancy with the Redskins, but became much more frequent while the Nationals and D.C. United shared the stadium during the mostly concurrent MLB and MLS seasons; in 2005, the conversion was made more than 20 times. Originally the seats located behind the stadium's third-base dugout were removed for baseball games and put back in place when the stadium was converted to the football (and later soccer) configuration. When these sections were in place, RFK seated approximately 56,000 fans. With the Nationals' arrival in 2005, this particular segment of the stands was permanently removed to facilitate the switch between the baseball and soccer configurations. These seats were not restored following the Nationals' move to Nationals Park, leaving the stadium's seating capacity at approximately 46,000. The majority of the upper-deck seats are normally not made available for D.C. United matches, so the stadium's reduced capacity is not normally problematic for the club.

The football/soccer field alignment is northwest to southeast, approximately along the baseball diamond's first base line.

During the years when the stadium was used only for Redskins games, the rotating seats remained in the football configuration. If an exhibition baseball game was scheduled, the left-field wall was only 250 feet (76 m) from home plate, and a large screen was erected in left field for some games.

Some of RFK's quirks endear the venue to fans and players. The large rolling bleacher section is less stable than other seating, allowing fans to jump in rhythm to cause the whole area to bounce. Also, despite its small size (it never seated more than 56,000 people), because of the stadium's design and the proximity of the fans to the field when configured for football, the stadium was extremely loud when the usual sell-out Redskins crowds became vocal. Legend has it that Redskins head coach George Allen would order a large rolling door opened in the side of the stadium when visiting teams were attempting field goals at critical moments in games so that a swirling wind from off the Potomac and Anacostia rivers might interfere with the flight of the kicked ball.

Since the stadium is on a direct sight line with the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, light towers were not allowed; instead, arc lights were placed on its curved, dipping roof.

Events D.C. —the city agency which operates RFK Stadium— began a strategic planning process in November 2013 to study options for the future of the stadium, its 80 acres (320,000 m2) campus, and the nonmilitary portions of the adjacent D.C. Armory. Events D.C. said one option to be studied was demolition within a decade, while another would be the status quo. The strategic planning process also included design and development of options. The agency said that RFK Stadium has generated $4 million to $5 million a year in revenues since 1997, which did not cover operating expenses.[15] In August 2014, Events D.C. chose the consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey to create the master plan.[16]

Seating capacity


Football / Soccer

  • 49,219 (1961–1964)[18]
  • 50,000 (1965–1969)[19]
  • 50,415 (1970)[20]
  • 53,041 (1971)[21]
  • 53,039 (1972)[22]
  • 54,381 (1973)[23]
  • 54,395 (1974)[24]

  • 55,004 (1975–1976)[25]
  • 55,031 (1977–1979)[26]
  • 55,045 (1980–1983)[27]
  • 55,431 (1984)[28]
  • 55,750 (1985–1991)[29]
  • 56,454 (1992–2004)[30]
  • 46,000 (2005–present)[31]


Satellite view of stadium in pre-2005 soccer configuration; the darker red seats at the northwest end are not part of the current setup.

The dimensions of the baseball field were 335 feet (102 m) down the foul lines, 380 feet (116 m) to the power alleys and 408 feet (124 m) to center field during the Senators' time. The official distances when the Nationals arrived were identical, except for two additional feet to center field. After complaints from Nationals hitters it was discovered in July 2005 that the fence had actually been put in place incorrectly, and it was 394.74 feet (120.3 m) to the power alleys in left; 395 feet (120 m) to the right-field power alley; and 407.83 feet (124.3 m) to center field. The section of wall containing the 380-foot (116 m) sign was moved closer to the foul lines to more accurately represent the distance shown on the signs but no changes were made to the actual dimensions.

The approximate elevation of the playing field is ten feet (3 m) above sea level.


The stadium was opened in October 1961 as the District of Columbia Stadium (D.C. Stadium for short). The stadium was renamed in January 1969, for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy,[8] who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. The announcement was made by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on January 18, in the last days of the Johnson Administration.[9]

As attorney general in the early 1960s, Kennedy's Justice Department played a role in the racial integration of the Redskins.[32] Along with Udall, Kennedy threatened to revoke the team's lease at the federally-owned stadium until it promised to sign African American players.[32][33]

On April 14, 2005, just before the Nationals' home opener, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission announced an agreement with the Department of Defense under which the military would pay the city about $6 million for naming rights and the right to place recruiting kiosks and signage in the stadium. In return, the stadium would be dubbed "Armed Forces Field at RFK Stadium".[34] This plan was dropped within days, however, after several prominent members of Congress questioned the use of public funds for a stadium sponsorship.[35]

Similar proposals to sell the naming rights to the National Guard,[34] ProFunds (a Bethesda, Maryland investment company),[35] and Sony[36] were all potential names in 2005 and 2006, but no agreement was ever finalized.

Sports events



A Washington Nationals game at RFK, June 2005.

Soccer (men's)

D.C. United after their win in the 2004 MLS Eastern Conference finals
RFK Stadium during a D.C. United soccer match in March 2009

1994 FIFA World Cup matches

Date Time (EDT) Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
June 19, 19944:00 p.m. Norway1–0 MexicoGroup E52,395
June 20, 19947:30 p.m. Netherlands2–1 Saudi ArabiaGroup F50,535
June 28, 199412:30 p.m. Italy1–1 MexicoGroup E52,535
June 29, 199412:30 p.m. Belgium0–1 Saudi ArabiaGroup F52,959
July 2, 19944:30 p.m. Spain3–0  SwitzerlandRound of 1653,121

1996 Olympic soccer matches

Date Time (EDT) Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
July 20, 19963:00 p.m. Portugal2–0 TunisiaGroup A34,796
July 21, 199612:00 p.m. South Korea1–0 GhanaGroup C45,946
July 22, 19967:30 p.m. Argentina1–1 PortugalGroup A25,811
July 23, 19969:00 p.m. Ghana3–2 ItalyGroup C27,849
July 24, 19967:30 p.m. United States1–1 PortugalGroup A58,012
July 25, 19969:00 p.m. Mexico1–1 GhanaGroup C30,237

MLS Cup finals

Date Time (EDT) Team #1 Score Team #2 Attendance
October 26, 19975:00 p.m.D.C. United2–1Colorado Rapids57,431
October 15, 20002:00 p.m.Kansas City Wizards1–0Chicago Fire39,159
November 18, 200712:00 p.m.New England Revolution1–2Houston Dynamo39,859

MLS All-Star Games

Date Game Team #1 Score Team #2 Attendance
August 3, 2002 MLS All-Stars 3-2  United States 31,096
July 31, 2004Game 1 of 2United States U.S. 1994 World Cup Squad2–2United Nations MLS International Stars21,378
Game 2 of 2East3–2West

CONCACAF Gold Cup matches

Date Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
8 July 2009 Haiti2–0 GrenadaGroup B56,692
 United States2–0 Honduras
June 19, 2011 Jamaica0–2 United StatesQuarterfinals45,424
 Panama1–1 (5-3 pen) El Salvador

United States national team matches

The United States men's national soccer team has played more games at RFK Stadium than any other stadium.[46] Some have suggested that due to the nature of RFK and its quirkiness that it would be a suitable national stadium if US Soccer were ever to seek one out.[47][48] Several prominent members of the national team have scored at RFK, including Brian McBride, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Landon Donovan. Winners are listed first.

Date Competition Team Score Team Attendance
October 6, 1977Friendly China PR1–1 United States Unknown
May 12, 1990FriendlyNetherlands AFC Ajax1–1 United States 18,245
October 19, 1991Friendly North Korea2–1 United States 16,351
May 30, 19921992 U.S. Cup United States3–1 Republic of Ireland35,696
October 13, 1993Friendly Mexico1–1 United States23,927
06-18, 19951995 U.S. Cup United States4–0 Mexico38,615
October 8, 1995Friendly United States4–3 Saudi Arabia10,216
June 12, 19961996 U.S. Cup Bolivia2–0 United States19,350
November 3, 19961998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States2–0 Guatemala30,082
October 3, 19971998 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Jamaica1–1 United States51,528
May 30, 1998Friendly Scotland0–0 United States46,037
June 13, 1999 Friendly United States1–0 Argentina40,119
June 3, 20002000 U.S. Cup United States4–0 South Africa16,570
September 3, 20002002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States1–0 Guatemala51,556
September 1, 20012002 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Honduras3–2 United States54,282
May 12, 2002Friendly United States2–1 Uruguay 30,413
November 17, 2002Friendly United States2–0 El Salvador25,390
October 13, 20042006 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States6–0 Panama22,000
October 11, 20082010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) United States6–1 Cuba 20,249
July 8, 20092009 CONCACAF Gold Cup United States2–1 Honduras26,079
October 14, 20092010 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF) Costa Rica2–2 United States36,243
June 19, 20112011 CONCACAF Gold Cup United States2–0 Jamaica45,424
June 2, 2013US Soccer Centennial Match United States4–3 Germany47,359
May 31, 2015Friendly El Salvador0-2 Honduras Unknown
September 4, 2015Friendly United States2-1 Peru 28,896

Soccer (women's)

1996 Olympic women's soccer

Date Time (EDT) Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
July 21, 19963:00 p.m. Norway2–2 BrazilGroup B45,946
July 23, 19966:30 p.m. Norway3–2 Germany28,000
July 25, 19966:30 p.m. Norway4–0 Japan30,237

2003 Women's World Cup

Date Time (EDT) Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
September 21, 200312:30 p.m. United States3–1 SwedenGroup A34,144
September 21, 20033:15 p.m. Brazil3–0 South KoreaGroup B34,144
September 24, 20035:09 p.m. Norway1–4 Brazil16,316
September 24, 20037:45 p.m. France1–0 South Korea16,316
September 27, 200312:45 p.m. France1–1 Brazil17,618
September 27, 20033:30 p.m. Argentina1–6 GermanyGroup C17,618

2014 Women's CONCACAF Championship

Date Team #1 Score Team #2 Round Attendance
October 20, 2014  Trinidad and Tobago2–1  Guatemala Group A 6,421 [49]
 United States6–0  Haiti


Motor sports

Other events


The Beatles performed a concert here in August, 1966. From 1993 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004, rock radio station WHFS held its annual HFStival rock concert at RFK Stadium.

Volunteer service

In film

The stadium was prominently featured in the climax of the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in May 2014.[61]

Washington Hall of Stars

During the Redskins' tenure, the Washington Hall of Stars was displayed on a series of white-and-red signs hung in a ring around the stadium's mezzanine, honoring D.C. sports greats from various sports. With the reconfiguration of the stadium, it was replaced by a series of dark-green banners over the center-field and right-field fences in order to make room for out-of-town scoreboards and advertising signage. There are 15 separate panels honoring 82 figures. Nationals Park also hosts a smaller version of the display.

To the right of Panel 15 are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Cup wins: 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. To the right of these banners is D.C. United's "Tradition of Excellence" banner, which honors John Harkes and Marco Etcheverry. To the left of those banners are four banners honoring D.C. United's MLS Supporters Shield wins: 1997, 1999, 2006 and 2007.

Public transportation

RFK Stadium is within 12 mile (0.80 km) and easily accessible from the Stadium-Armory station of the Washington Metro. The station is served by the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines. It is also served directly by Metrobus lines B2, D6, E32 (at Eastern High School), 96 and 97.

Food vendors

RFK Stadium is home to such eateries as:

  • Forescore Grill
  • The Diamond Club
  • Dominic's of New York
  • Stars and Stripes Brew

  • Red, Hot & Blue BBQ
  • AR Seafood
  • Cantina Marina


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  55. Lewisohn, M: "The Complete Beatles Chronicle", pages 229–230. Harmony Books, New York, 1992.
  56. "Grateful Dead: Listing of shows by year".
  57. U2 Washington, September 20, 1987, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Joshua Tree Tour - U2 on tour. Retrieved on August 12, 2013.
  58. Colton, Michael (July 30, 1998). "A Flash of Fame For a Good Cause". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  59. KBS (July 4, 2003). "Korean-American Peace Festival". KBS World. South Korea: Korean Broadcasting System. Retrieved June 12, 2015. To commemorate the centennial of Korean immigration to the United States, a music festival featuring Korean pop singers was held on June 28 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Exactly 100 years ago, scores of Koreans arrived in Hawaii, beginning the history of Korean immigration. With the number of Koreans currently residing in the U.S. exceeding one million, a series of festivals and seminars had been scheduled in both countries to celebrate and reflect on the past 100 years. Organized by the Hankook Ilbo, sister paper of The Korea Times, and the television network SBS, the concert featured scores of famous musicians such as BoA, NRG, Babyvox, Cho Young-nam, Patty Kim, Kim Gun-mo and Jo Sung-mo, under the title "Korean-American Peace Festival". The top stars visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the National Mall in the capital on the eve of the concert. According to The Korea Times in New York, a local daily for Korean-American society, a large number of Korean residents throughout the U.S. attended the concert and took part in a Washington, D.C. tour package, to help local travel agencies suffering from recession. The four-hour concert will be shown here in Korea on SBS on July 17, Korea's Constitution Day.
  60. RFK Stadium – A Historic Venue.
  61. "X-Men Movie Swings and Misses on D.C. Baseball History (Video)".

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