With Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder already at work on a replacement for FedEx Field in Landover, Washington-area lawmakers are hoping to protect taxpayers from a bidding war.
Dels. David Moon (D-Montgomery) and Trent L. Kittleman (R-Howard) have proposed legislation creating a compact in which Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., would agree to not provide public funding, or free or below-market land, to the team. The bill, HB 229, is up for a hearing Tuesday afternoon in the House Appropriations Committee.
“The idea is that if all three jurisdictions agree at the same time not to use public financing to subsidize a new football stadium, that this would be a way for governments to [avoid the] bidding wars we’ve seen any time a team is talking about moving or building a new stadium,” said Moon.
Snyder’s lease at FedEx runs through 2027, and the facility is only 20 years old, but it’s no one’s idea of a great venue. The stadium is a long drive for most fans, it’s not easy to reach by Metro, and parking is expensive.
Snyder has reportedly hired an architect to design a new stadium with a retro vibe, one that would evoke the quirky confines of RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street in D.C., where the team played during its glory days. Last year team president Bruce Allen said talks with area leaders in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland were “ongoing and very positive.”
D.C. Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large) and Virginia state Del. Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier) have introduced legislation similar to the Moon/Kittleman bill. The interstate compact would only go into effect if leaders in all three jurisdictions signed on.
Given the cache – if not the economic value — of NFL stadiums, passage is far from certain. Grosso’s bill was assigned to the D.C. Council’s Finance Committee, a panel whose chairman, Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), is a vocal proponent of getting the ‘Skins back to the city. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) made no secret of his desire to see the team move to Loudoun County. And some Maryland lawmakers have signaled a reluctance to tie the state’s hands.
“It might make sense for Prince George’s County to buy the land for them or do some special breaks,” said Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick). “So I would hate to see us pass something where we’re just totally uninvolved in the process.”
Despite the opposition, Moon believes there’s scant reason to spent public funds on a team as lucrative as the Redskins, which, at an estimated $2.85 billion, is one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.
“Football stadiums are typically thought of as a really poor return on investment for tax[payer] dollars,” he said. “They only play 10 home games a year. We’re not talking about all sorts of professional jobs. It’s a lot of hot dog vendors and merchandise retailing and stuff like this. So the payoff for what they cost is really not worth it.”