- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Virginia lawmakers plan to significantly reduce the proposed amount of public money committed to building a stadium for the Washington Commanders — agreeing to cap the limit at $350 million, down from an estimated $1 billion, according to a report. 

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that state Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, a Fairfax Democrat, and Del. Barry Knight, a Virginia Beach Republican, have an agreement to cap the funds issued as the two chambers continue to hammer out the differences between two bills that were passed last month. 

Previously, neither the Senate nor the House bill set a limit for how much money could be issued in bonds for the project to be completed. Saslaw estimated in a meeting that the state would commit $1 billion in bonds for the construction of the stadium, while the team would pay $2 billion to complete the rest of the project. 

Saslaw has said he envisions the project to be a “mini city,” similar to other recent NFL stadiums. The team has mapped out three potential locations in the state, with two coming in Prince William County (Woodbridge, Dumfries) and the other coming in Loudoun County (Sterling). 

According to the Post, Saslaw said language within the bills has also been tweaked to prevent bonds from being issued to help the construction of non-stadium-related projects. 

The two chambers reportedly remain apart in key aspects of the bills, such as whether the state should have the option to reclaim a portion of naming rights revenue to help repay the bonds. 

By setting a bond limit at $350 million, the funds issued would be more in line with other NFL stadiums to have recently been built by a portion of public money. U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, was built with $498 million in public funds — $348 million of which came from the state. 

The state of Georgia initially issued $200 billion in bonds to help pay for the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium ($1.6 billion), though a total of $700 million of public money was used to complete the stadium and maintain upkeep. 

A lobbyist representing the team told the Post that it welcomed the cap on the $350 million limit. The team is also in talks with Maryland and District officials about a possible stadium, with Maryland also looking to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to convince the team to stay in suburban Landover.

“We understand Sen. Saslaw’s concerns and his commitment to look out for the interests of the Commonwealth,” lawyer Mark T. Bowles said. 

The Virginia legislature is hoping to work out the differences between the two bills before the General Assembly adjourns Saturday.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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