Governor: Stadium Site Would Be Part of Land Swap With Feds

Oxon Cove, as viewed from MD 295. MGM National Harbor can be seen in the distance, on the right. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) disclosed for the first time on Tuesday that Maryland’s pursuit of a large, choice plot of land on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County is part of a proposed land swap with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Speaking at a news conference in Landover, Hogan said he has been negotiating with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on a deal that would transfer Oxon Cove, a 300-acre site at the foot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, to the state, in exchange for land in Western Maryland that the feds are eager to have.

“Our discussions are about a land-swap for property in Western Maryland that Interior desperately wants for extension of some Civil War battlefields,” Hogan told reporters. “It’s property that we’re not using but they want to develop into a national park.

“And what we want is that gateway to Maryland.”

Hogan has also been in conversations with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who is widely believed to be in the market for land on which to build a new stadium, to replace FedEx Field in Landover. FedEx, which opened as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in 1997, is an unpopular and over-large ballpark that has never caught on with fans.

In Q&A with reporters, Hogan sidestepped concerns from Prince George’s officials, who have complained in recent days that they’ve been kept in the dark about his talks with the federal government.

“We couldn’t possibly negotiate a major economic development thing like that in public, where it would just be sunk by opposition without even knowing what we’re talking about,” he said. “It just never happens that way.”

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who appeared with Hogan at a school funding event Tuesday, was more direct, telling Maryland Matters in a brief interview that “we should” make sure residents in the Oxon Hill area are consulted and kept informed.

“And I think the governor agrees with that too,” she said. “We absolutely should have conversations with the community.”

An Alsobrooks aide said this week that she and the governor share the goal of keeping the team (“a major taxpayer,” in Hogan’s words) in the state, but the two have not discussed specific locations.

The Redskins’ lease on FedEx Field runs until 2027. But Snyder has a keen desire to have a more modern stadium, one that evokes the team’s heyday at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C, and he has reportedly commissioned an architect to come up with a design that harkens back to that golden era. An informal bidding war has already begun, pitting Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia against one another.

A source familiar with the talks told Maryland Matters this week that the team has identified Oxon Cove, site of the historic Oxon Hill Farm, as a particularly exciting option. Hogan signaled as much during his news conference.

“I think this is the place where they want to be. In my discussions with the Redskins about this particular location, I think it’s a place where they would be excited to be.”

At the same time, however, Hogan made it clear that the state’s role would be limited to land acquisition and possibly some infrastructure, but nothing more.

“We’re not going to build a billionaire a stadium,” he said. “We have no interest whatsoever — and there’s been no discussions ever — about us spending one penny on construction. Dan Snyder is interested in building a new stadium himself.”

Former team owner Jack Kent Cooke built FedEx Field, with the county and state providing the land and picking up infrastructure costs. At the same time, in the mid- and late 1990’s, the Maryland Stadium Authority built a new home in Baltimore for the Cleveland Browns, who are now known as the Baltimore Ravens.

One reason FedEx remains unpopular is the steep price of parking, gridlocked post-game parking lots and the lack of mass transit access.

farm museum
The site Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. is eyeing for a possible new football stadium currently is home to a farm museum. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

As it happens, the landmark Metro funding bill the General Assembly approved earlier this year includes a provision requiring the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to study the feasibility of extending the Yellow Line in Virginia across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

According to the text of the measure, which Hogan signed with great fanfare: “The study required … shall identify the feasibility of an extension of a Metrorail line to National Harbor via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and include the estimated operating and capital costs associated with the extension.”

Was that provision included with an eye toward a future NFL stadium in Oxon Hill, near the county’s new MGM casino and the Gaylord Resort?

No, said a key architect of the measure. Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) said Prince George’s County legislators have long expressed interest in a rail link to the National Harbor site, and the bill was a natural vehicle for an updated study.

“There was nothing raised about any kind of future stadium site,” he told Maryland Matters Tuesday evening. “This has been on their radar for some time.”

Hogan did not disclose the exact location of the Western Maryland parcels the National Park Service wants to obtain, and an aide to the governor would not elaborate, citing the need to keep sensitive negotiations private. A spokesman for Rep. John K. Delaney (D-Md.) did not respond to an email requesting more information.

Nonetheless, Hogan did make it clear he intends to keep Maryland in the mix as Snyder ramps up his search for a new venue.

“Can you imagine [a new] Redskins stadium on Monday Night Football, looking at all the monuments reflecting in the Potomac River?” he said. “It’d be the nicest facility in America, with 300 acres to develop around there for entertainment or restaurants or whatever we decide, whatever the county and the state decide we want to do. I’m excited about it.”

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