The Washington Commanders play in one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL. FedEx Field opened in 1997, relatively recently in human terms but an epoch ago by the multibillion-dollar stadium standards of today. Located in Landover, Md., FedEx Field lacks the elite-level amenities common to more current stadiums, and infrastructure problems at the stadium range from leaking pipes to collapsing fences.
Prior Commanders owner Dan Snyder had sought to build a new stadium, but the toxicity that surrounded his entire tenure, from sexual assault lawsuits to allegations of financial impropriety to the controversy over the team’s prior name, short-circuited all attempts to break ground elsewhere.
Now, with Snyder’s departure, new hope is blooming all around the DMV — D.C., Maryland, Virginia — region that a new stadium, or a significantly renovated FedEx Field, could rise up. A more modern facility could bring a Super Bowl to the D.C. area, and would be a significant step toward helping the franchise regain the luster it lost, and abandoned, during the quarter-century-long Snyder era.
All three governments in the Commanders’ footprint are jockeying, to one degree or another, to host an NFL stadium. Budget processes and legislative approvals move slowly, but with Snyder gone, it’s clear that action is underway. Here’s where the stadium issue stands in all three districts.
District of Columbia
RFK Stadium, the Commanders’ home prior to FedEx Field, still sits on a parcel of federally-owned land in the District. D.C. mayor Muriel E. Bowser has made it a priority to redevelop the area around and including the deteriorating stadium, a project which could include luring the Commanders back to the District.
But before that can happen, Congress must authorize the redevelopment. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that two committees, the House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands and the House Oversight Committee, are scheduled to assess legislation designed to address the RFK parcel.
If approved, the RFK Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act would extend the District’s lease on the site for up to 99 years and also open up development opportunities on the site. The current lease is slated to end in 2038, and only permits sports and recreation-related activities on the property.
However, even with congressional authorization, Bowser faces an uphill fight to bring the Commanders back to D.C. The D.C. Council is divided on whether to build a stadium, and if so, whether to use public funds for stadium improvements.
Maryland faces challenges regardless of the Commanders’ stadium decision: how to upgrade or replace FedEx Field if the team decides to remain in Landover, and how to repurpose or demolish the stadium if the team leaves for another venue.
“The last thing we want is a towering structure, vacant, deteriorating in our backyard,” state Del. Jazz Lewis, who represents the area around FedEx Field, told Yahoo Sports in April. “That’s the reason why we made the investment plan, to help continue to grow that area regardless of if the team stays or goes.”
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has repeatedly stated his intention to keep the team in the state. Maryland officials have created the Blue Line Corridor project, named for the line of the Metro transit system that runs in the area of the stadium, to promote mixed-use development around FedEx Field. There is not money yet in the project to build a new stadium, but there is funding to demolish the stadium if the Commanders go elsewhere.
Virginia has hosted the Commanders’ preseason activities for many years, and under Snyder’s tenure, three potential Virginia sites were in the running for the new stadium. Two of those were dismissed because of traffic concerns, leaving only one site, in Loudoun County near Dulles Airport, as a potential host.
Recently, the Virginia General Assembly passed, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, signed a budget with an amendment calling for $250,000 in spending to “evaluate potential economic incentives to attract sports teams to the state.” Any specific economic incentives would have to wait until the legislature reconvenes early next year.
In an April letter to Youngkin provided to Yahoo Sports, Virginia delegates David Reid and Luke Torian noted that any effort to site a new stadium in Virginia must include provisions aimed at “protecting Virginia taxpayers, ensuring we are not left with a derelict stadium, establishing benchmarking to ensure that the project will be completed on-time and on-budget with well-paid Virginia workers, and assuring that the transportation and environmental issues are addressed at the beginning of the project.”
New ownership has remained coy about the franchise’s next stadium steps. “Obviously we’re blessed to be welcomed by all three jurisdictions,” owner Josh Harris recently told the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., per WUSA. “And so, we’re going to engage quickly, because we appreciate that the sooner we get started the sooner the team will have a new home.”
Though the wheels of government move slowly, it’s clear that the battle over a potential new stadium is likely to be as difficult as — and much more protracted than — any the Commanders will face on the field.