- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Veterans Stadium has been blown to bits … but RFK lives on.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little demolition-deprived.

Seriously, couldn’t D.C. United find another place to play so we could knock the darn thing down?

It’s been more than a year now since we’ve had a nitroglycerin party around here, since US Airways Arena (formerly Capital Centre) bit the dust. And let’s face it, you’re nowhere as a sports town unless you’re doing away with an old stadium or arena.

I’m surprised there isn’t a cable station devoted to such happenings, as common as they are these days. The Ka-Boom Network, perhaps, or ESPN Implosion. In just the last decade, we’ve seen nearly a score of sports venues reduced to rubble: Arlington Stadium, Chicago Stadium, the Salt Palace, HemisFair Arena, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Omni, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Boston Garden, Tampa Stadium, Richfield Coliseum, St. Louis Arena, the Kingdome, McNichols Arena, Memorial Stadium, Milwaukee County Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, Foxboro Stadium, Mile High Stadium, Riverfront Stadium.

Oh, yes, and Busch Stadium is scheduled to be razed next year — with the Silverdome waiting in the wings. (The latter, though no longer the home of the Detroit Lions, is booked through December — and, hey, you wouldn’t want to frighten the conventioneers.)

But RFK still stands. The stadium of which a former Redskin once said, “I don’t think it ever looked new.” The stadium that Joe Gibbs described, at his Hall of Fame induction, as having “crud hanging off it.” (And that was eight years ago. Heck, the crud must be calcified by now. It’s probably nitro-resistant.)

There’s almost no reason for the place to exist. Built in 1962 for $24million — about the cost of a club seat today — it’s older than most of the aforementioned stadiums that have been torn down. In another decade or so, it’ll be as aged as Griffith Stadium was when it was razed (54, to be precise). So … why? Why is it still with us?

The Senators and Redskins have left for greener pastures. The Freedom are no more. Riddick Bowe isn’t looking for a rematch with Jesse “The Boogieman” Ferguson. Are ya tellin’ me we can’t find somewhere else for Freddy Adu to do his kicking, for Mick Jagger to do his licking? FedEx Field, Byrd Stadium, M&T; Bank Stadium — they ain’t good enough?

It’s a cardinal rule in sports these days: If you build something, you must destroy something. Abe Pollin built MCI Center, so he demo-ed US Airways Arena. Baltimore built Camden Yards, so it wrecked Memorial Stadium. Our own fair city, though, has flouted tradition and left RFK standing. Worse, it has turned the place into a veritable soccerplex. The Hogs must be horrified. The Smurfs must be stupefied.

Vaporizing a sports venue, it bears mentioning, isn’t such a bad thing. The land that Metropolitan Stadium used to occupy, for instance, is now the site of the Mall of America. Perhaps we could replace RFK with something equally significant, culturally — the world’s largest skateboard park, say, or a Women’s United Soccer Association memorial. Or how about this: the National Duckpin Bowling Hall of Fame.

About all that’s keeping RFK upright, it seems, is hope — the hope that the Lords of Baseball will condescend to grant D.C. a franchise. RFK, of course, is where the Washington Expos would play their first few seasons until a new palace was ready. Maybe the owners would take our bid more seriously, though, if we threatened to blow the place up. It could be like the end of that Austin Powers movie (with Bud Selig in the role of Dr. Evil): Warning! Self-destruct sequence initiated!

Alas, for the time being, we’ll have to live vicariously through cities like Philadelphia. Did you know that the Vet, which stood for 33 years, was gone in 60 seconds? Well, not 60, exactly — 62. All it took to bring the walls tumbling down was 2,800 separate explosions, which caused the structure to fold up like a house of cards. When the blasting was done, the stadium that was the scene of the Phillies’ only World Series championship, the 100th Army-Navy football game and the first on-site criminal court for unruly fans was but a memory.

Someday — someday soon, if we’re lucky — RFK Stadium will get a similar sendoff.

Anybody got a match?

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