The upcoming NFL season at FedEx Field won’t be the last. But the clock is ticking and it’s likely to run out before Washington’s lease expires in 11 years.
Team owner Dan Snyder, recently appointed to the league’s Stadium Committee, has been counting the days and talking about a new venue since January. That’s when he hired an architect to design a new palace, replete with a moat, beach and slightly transparent wave-lake structure suitable for rappelling — as seen in artist renditions that appeared on “60 Minutes” and went viral in March.
It seems odd to raise the subject of relocation when moving day is scheduled for 2027. There’s no pressing need for designs now, as if change-of-address forms are imminent. The Los Angeles Rams’ new facility is expected to be ready in 2019 and the team just announced its construction company in July.
But Snyder knows there’s no such thing as being premature in prepping jurisdictions and politicians for another round of “Who wants to pay for my stadium?!” He’s fully aware that fellow NFL owners have done smashingly well over the last 10 years and he’s anxious for his turn at the trough.
The game works best when owners can threaten to take their team elsewhere unless locals agree to foot a large portion of the new stadium. Los Angeles was used for blackmail so often, the city should’ve charged for its services.
Zygi Wilf’s Minnesota Vikings begin play this season in U.S. Bank Stadium, a $1.1 billion jewel that cost taxpayers $498 million. That’s nothing compared to the handiwork of Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons; they secured the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, set to open next season, with $594 million in public funds.
Exceptions to the rule are rarer than NFL players who think Roger Goodell is underpaid. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is privately funding his stadium, estimated to be the world’s most expensive playpen at $2.6 billion. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross dug into his own pocket for a $350 million renovation job at Sun Life Stadium.
I imagine Kroenke and Ross received a stern talking-to about showing up their fellow billionaires — if the pair hasn’t been ostracized altogether.
Snyder doesn’t have to look far to create a potential bidding war for his team’s next stadium. It reminds me of a point when I lived in Maryland, worked in Virginia and attended church in Washington. I felt at home in all three domains as they merged into the homogeneous “metro area.”
I just wish governors, mayors and/or county executives would offer me millions of dollars, like they’re willing to offer Snyder, to build a place in their jurisdiction.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has shown no shame in publicly wooing the team. He wants his state to hit the trifecta, playing host to the team’s headquarters, training camp facility and stadium.
“I view this as a Virginia team,” McAuliffe said on ESPN 980 last month (August). “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your facilities … We would love to have (the Redskins).”
He has no problem with the team’s controversial name. The same can’t be said for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser or some officials at the National Park Service — which owns the site of the old venue, RFK Stadium. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said the team moniker makes prospects for a new lease unlikely. Bowser, who wants the team back in D.C, has said the name is offensive and should be changed.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan supports the name and vows to fight to keep the team in Maryland. Prince George’s County, home to FedEx Field, collects more than $1 million dollars for every game and maintaining that revenue stream is a high priority. County Executive Rushern Baker could draw encouragement from the Bjarke Ingels Group’s renderings. They appear to place the new stadium in Oxon Hill, near the site where MGM is erecting a $1.3 billion casino.
The bad news could be they appear to be on land also controlled by the National Park Service.
Wherever it lands, Snyder’s new gem will continue the trend of 10-figure grandiosities that started with the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. “Jerry World” cost a then-unheard of $1.3 billion when it opened in 2009. Every facility since has cost at least $1 billion, including the Rams’ upcoming $2.6 billion “Stan’s Universe.” The San Diego Chargers are asking voters to approve a taxpayer-funded $1.8 billion stadium/convention center and the Oakland Raiders are eyeing a possible $1.4 billion stadium in Las Vegas.
FedEx cost $250 million in 1997, but that’s chump change these days.
The next stadium for Washington is going to be breathtaking, with every amenity you can imagine and some you can’t. And assuming Snyder is devoid of an inner Kroenke or Ross to channel, the facility will take a bite out of public resources in either Maryland, Virginia or D.C.
Maybe politicians should start putting money aside now.
Maybe that’s why Snyder brought it up.
He might not dig deep into his own pocket, but at least he’s giving notice before digging into ours.
• Deron Snyder can be reached at email@example.com.
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