With reports that further information may be forthcoming on a potential design for the Redskins new stadium, it’s worthwhile to examine where the stadium might be.
The District of Columbia has made recent stadium deals, the latest one being with DC United at Buzzard Point. While the RFK stadium campus carries historical and logistical appeal as a new NFL stadium site, it must be remembered that significant hurdles were cited by the city, as documented and highlighted during the Nationals’ ballpark site selection process. City officias forwarded the notion during that process that the RFK Stadium site would be unavailable for any new stadium construction for as long as three years because of legal and jurisdictional wrangling with the National Park Service (amongst other federal agencies) and environmental issues. There is no indication that the city has been working out the NPS issues in the meantime while conducting environmental studies and implementing the needed remediation to allow new construction on the site – which was said to cost tens of millions in 1993 dollars when tests confirmed the presence of lead there.
What could work against the return of the Redskins to the confines of the District as much as anything else is D.C.’s issue-laden ballpark lease and construction process. Snyder had a front-row seat for the bungling and snafus that marked the period between MLB’s agreement to move the Expos in late 2004 and the D.C. Council’s lease meltdown situation in early 2006. He couldn’t have missed the fact that then-Mayor Tony Williams negotiated a lease with MLB and gave the impression that he had the authority to finalize a deal, only to have the D.C. Council almost undo the deal several times before it was finally approved. Of course, another hurdle is the proactive refusal by city officials to accept the current team name should the team decide to relocate back to DC. These question marks could be problematic, depending on Snyder’s perception of their level of severity.
Virginia has emerged as a potential contender, with the governor’s public declaration of support for the idea. As possibly the last crack at a big league sports team for the commonwealth for the foreseeable future, it will be interesting to see how hard officials work to land the team. Potentially working in Virginia’s favor is the fact that its team headquarters and spring training home are also within the commonwealth.
The likeliest potential sites that come to mind are in Loudoun County, further from the Beltway than what the other jurisdictions are likely to offer. However, the NFL is less dependent as other major sports are on such proximity matters. Moreover, the majority of the fan base is already in Virginia by counts of season ticket holders. Given the team’s limited potential for market saturation to the northeast area of the Beltway because of increased proximity to Baltimore, a team that is in Northern Virginia could still draw significant support from the entire metro area as well as the I-66, I-29, and I-95 South corridors.v One intriguing site is nearby the intersection of Route 28 in the Dulles toll road in Loudoun County, just over the Fairfax County line. The location, discussed and examined during the Nationals’ ballpark process, would now have nearby Metrorail access due to the silver line extension.
Maryland has a considerable advantage, as it is the current site of the team’s stadium. Additionally, that site offers practically zero needed infrastructure improvements, and plenty of room for another stadium to be built. In addition to this practical site certainty to offer, Maryland could also look to other places in the region. There has been speculation that with all of the development of National Harbor, a stadium might be an addition to the growing entertainment Megapolis. However, it is unclear whether there will remain enough land after the current development underway is complete. Also, there is no Metrorail access, and the area tends towards traffic bottlenecks, some of which extend to the Beltway. For example, the most recent Christmas tree lighting brought traffic on the Beltway to a standstill in the local lanes and even to a crawl in the through lanes.
Ultimately, if all three jurisdictions are vying for a team, it will come down to what owner Daniel Snyder prioritizes. Many assume that Snyder would emulate what Jerry Jones did in Texas and build a mega-stadium with a retractable roof that could host Super Bowl’s, Final Fours, concerts, and so forth. However, from recent reports, it appears that the stadium size might not be comparable to the Cowboys’ Stadium, and it also might not have a roof. At least with the Redskins (or whatever the team name will change to if Snyder chooses DC), it’s nice for their fans that the owner isn’t looking outside of this market like other NFL owners have done and are continuing to do.