Washington owner Snyder confirms NFL stadiums now obsolete the minute you take the shrink-wrap off

So here’s how yesterday afternoon went:

4:57 pm: Email from a fellow journalist: “Maybe this is the high-water mark of public-financed stadiums. Even the NFL is having trouble selling out stadiums since people have hi-def TVs and don’t enjoy fighting traffic and paying through the nose of the privilege of watching football.”

6:00 pm: CSN Washington reports that Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder says he’s “started the process” of seeking a new stadium, saying of his team’s current home, FedEx Field: “It’s a great place to feature our home games, but it’s 17 years old now.”

6:05 pm: I come down with a splitting headache.

There’s little to say here, really, other than that the Atlanta Falcons have successfully lowered the bar for what’s considered retirement age for a football stadium, to where “17 years old” is supposed to sound ancient now. (Of course, one might argue that Snyder himself lowered the bar by holding meetings with D.C. back when his new field was just ten years old, but he wasn’t making public pronouncements then.)

Snyder explicitly said a new stadium could go in Maryland, Virginia, or D.C. itself. Since his lease in Prince George’s County doesn’t expire until 2027 — though there’s always the possibility he could leave early and pay penalties — expect to see the next several years to play out as a three-way (or more: there are a lot of different suburban towns and counties) bidding war for the right to play host to an NFL team for at least another 17 years. Assuming the NFL lasts that long.


26 comments on “Washington owner Snyder confirms NFL stadiums now obsolete the minute you take the shrink-wrap off

  1. Unbelievable… For cars 17 is a little bit too old but for homes, buildings and arenas/stadiums that’s freaking rediculous. What more do they want from the tax payers and what more can they do to a stadium to “upgrade” besides put MY living room in there? States, counties and towns/cities should be ashamed of themselves for allowing NFL owners to discard a building they had tax payers pay millions and millions for just to have the tax payers AGAIN to fork out more money for a new one when the current hasn’t even been paid for. If my tax dollars are going to pay for that stadium then I should be able to go to the games FREE of charge.

    It’s time all the states and cities stand together and don’t give into allowing them to use tax payers money. We waste too much in this country every day and discarding a multi million dollar stadium just because it’s “old” is freaking reduculous.

    If my memory serves me the game is played on the grass, so just change the grass each year.

    Whatever upgrades they would put into a new stadium will come from our pockets into the pockets of the billionaire NFL owners pocket.

    Wake up America!!!

    If you want to upgrade/renovate the stadium fine but to toss it a side like an old dish towel is unbelievable.

  2. If I had the money of the billonaire team owners, I might try to take legal action against the government officials subsidizing the sports industry with our tax dollars. However, the public should be smarter about whom we elect or whom we encourage to run. It seems some of these subsidies should fall under the racketering laws or something, but I am not a lawyer. Subsidizing stadiums while infrastructure decays should be at the minimum labeled white collar crime, malfeasance of office and corruption with imprisonment.

  3. Snyder can forget about a stadium in DC unless he backs down and changes the team name. Don’t forget, Robert F. Kennedy would not allow the franchise to move into the stadium that now bears his name until owner George Preston Marshall agreed to integrate what was then an all-white team. Clearly the Maryland and Virgina suburbs could use the issue of the team name as leverage against Snyder. Snyder says he will never change the team name, but would he do it for a new stadium? Should be interesting to see what happens when Snyder says, “Give me a stadium, but I’m not changing the team name.”

  4. @Arthur Malkin – I always figured he has held onto the name as fiercely as he has as a bargaining chip for negotiation with the city of DC for a new stadium. Something he can give up easy but it looks like a major stumbling block to everyone on the outside.

  5. Just to play devil’s advocate for Snyder, 17 years is well in excess of an entire century if put them in dog years.

  6. Sacramento will be the lone exception. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind it’ll go the full 35 years. This is especially true, given the huge size difference between the old arena and the new one.

    (I’m doing Army Hat’s work for him. He can thank me later. Only a few people will know who Army Hat is.)

  7. FedEx Field was a dud on arrival, built by the previous owner in a terrible location, so how long should Snyder be stuck with someone else’s mistake? The Redskins are just starting the process for finding a new home and considering that it will take about ten years by that time the lease will be about up.

    Now the question is how much public funding will be requested, the assumption is a large percent, but as of now that is just an assumption so it’s a bit early to begin trashing the guy for something he hasn’t yet asked for.

    A big factor in the timing of this move is the bid for the 2024 Olympics, which if DC wins they’ll need a new stadium anyway. The new stadium would also be certain to host a Super Bowl and Final Four; probably could host the United as well instead of building two stadiums that would each be unused 340 days a year..

  8. “… how long should Snyder be stuck with someone else’s mistake?”

    He bought that mistake willingly. The end.

    Why should anyone else pay for Snyder’s poor business decisions? He’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars from those allegedly poor decisions, btw. Why is his alleged encumbrance anyone else’s problem to solve?

  9. DC, or any other American city, winning the Olympics in the near future is probably a non-starter. The event is acquiring a terrible reputation, local people don’t want it, and frankly most US cities/states don’t have the money to pay out for the “honor” of building a lot of nonsensical buildings and suspending sales tax.

    The myth of DC as an NFL-crazy town always seemed to me to be a huge overstatement fostered by DC sports media. While the team is certainly still popular, the decades of lame play have more or less made it another entertainment option in a region that increasingly has a lot of alternatives, particularly for the young and recently arrived. The difficulty of selling season tickets, even in a downsized stadium (I have been offered ‘special’ season tickets annually for years), underlines that new stadium construction is no easy task in a region with a broke state (Maryland), a broke city running out of land to sell (DC), and a state that is skeptical of any Northern Virginia project (VA).

    Snyder may want to chainsaw the upper deck off.

  10. You would think some of these people have never been kids or been parents. It’s what mom and dad used to say. What happens when someone else pays for something, and not you? You treat it like garbage. If Snyder and other owners had to pay for these stadiums themselves, they would keep them for centuries. Since they know the taxpayers are funding them, they’ll just ask for new ones when they’re bored of them.

    I just know the Detroit Lions are going to ask for a new stadium soon…

  11. “He bought that mistake willingly. The end.

    Why should anyone else pay for Snyder’s poor business decisions? He’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars from those allegedly poor decisions, btw. Why is his alleged encumbrance anyone else’s problem to solve?”

    He bought the Redskins, the stadium lease was thrown in with the deal and it only has 13 years left. I’m guessing that PG County would be more than happy to let him skip out a few years early if he builds near the waterfront area they’re building up.

    As far as anyone else paying for his “poor decisions”, no one is going to force the local governments to bid against each other, the lower the bids he gets the more he’ll have to pay himself, which I’m all for. At this point he hasn’t asked for a dime, everyone is assuming he will because that’s what any rational business owner would do.

  12. When you buy a business, you buy all contract benefits and obligations associated. He bought the lease.

    Other cities are certainly free to try and lure his curious brand of sports management to their boundaries. Like you, I hope they can’t be bothered and really aren’t interested. I imagine we’ll both be disappointed on that front…

  13. Off-topic, but this is breaking news: Judge issues a “split decision” on one of the lawsuits regarding the Kings, er, Sacramento’s arena. Sufficient cause for the lawsuit to proceed; they can’t sell the bonds yet.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/28/6662401/judge-rejects-part-of-lawsuit.html

    I’d call that progress.

  14. Dan Snyder bought the Washington Redskins in 1999 for $750 million. Per Forbes – see http://www.forbes.com/nfl-valuations/ – the franchise is now worth $2.4 billion – a gain of $1.65 billion!

    FedEx field was built in 1997 with 28% public money and 72% private money.

    If Dan Snyder wants a new stadium he can easily afford to pay for 100% of it. If he does not want to pay for 100% of a new stadium, then he will continue to get richer at the current stadium. If he finds the stadium situation totally unacceptable, he can sell the team for a huge profit to one of the remaining 450 US billionaires who do not yet own a major league sports franchise.

  15. I have yet to go to New RFK, but from what I’ve been told, PowerBoater69 is right. The stadium was built cheap and is out of date by NFL standards.

    Keith Olbermann had an interesting take on the whole thing, though. He thinks that Snyder is going to leverage changing the Redskins name for tax money. Hard to imagine a more useless way to spend tax revenues if that’s how it goes down.

  16. MikeM, so 3/7 of the lawsuit is stillborn before it even gets to trial, and you call that progress? Best of luck!

  17. Ben,

    There’s nothing wrong with the stadium itself. It seems to sell a lot of expensive things, and the seats are just as good/bad as they are anywhere else. Probably doesn’t have as many luxury boxes as some of the newer places, but I’m not sure why that became an acceptable justification for public funding.

    The main problems are two:
    1. it was built with the “massive” team “season ticket waiting list” in mind, so it ended up so big that it absorbed the likely demand at current prices. They actually cut about 10k seats out of the thing. Then it came out that buying a t-shirt at the team store passively got you on the waiting list.

    2. The location is abysmal, with a metro stop about a mile away, and the stadium station is poorly serviced on Sundays, so getting there is horrid. I think it would be nearly as horrid to get to a large stadium in the District if you are depending on the Orange line, but the walk to the station would possibly be shorter.

    However, the main problem is that, under current prices and game conditions/format, watching an NFL game in person is a horrible experience. I can’t think of any stadium feature that would make it less unpleasant, other than heated seats in the northeast.

  18. Several big name schools in the NCAA are seeing declining ticket sales, especially among the younger demographics. Youth football participation is starting to decline despite population growth. Football in the US may have over expanded, counting on new found fans to be diehards when for them it was just a fad. That wouldn’t be a huge problem if so much capital hadn’t been invested in supersizing everything for a large fanbase.

    With all the potential existential threats to football as it is currently played, it wouldn’t surprise me if much of the push right now for new NFL stadiums is part of a scheme by team owners to have a product to sell should football start to wither. Most of the deals are heavy on revenues from public sources and from non-football events. If they really see that change coming, I expect many will try to find an unaware buyer but failing that, having guaranteed revenue streams from the public treasury and other events at the stadiums would be a nice backup.

  19. I bet right now maintenance workers are being let go by the Washington football team and the stadium authorities. Get a few bricks to fall out, or a water pipe to leak, and in a few years they can tell the public the building is “falling apart.” Plus, of course, the NFL can play the “no Superbowl for you” card.

  20. About a year ago, I heard the CEO of the dolphins talk about how his team and the NFL are fully aware of the “problem” of the home experience/HD keeping fans home.

    He didn’t give specifics, but did say that owners are looking at ways to make the fan experience better. He mentioned some kind of group seating that allowed people to interact, wifi, more tvs with other games and stats (for fantasy football), and even allowed for the possibility of living room environments.

    IMHO that is the formula for the next round of stadiums. Luxury seating isn’t just about comfortable seats that face the field.

  21. An NFL VP spoke about this a while back, too:

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2013/01/28/4440/nfl-vp-maybe-football-stadiums-should-have-fewer-seats-and-more-tvs/

    It’s definitely going to be weird if the future of football consists of teams tearing down stadiums to build new ones where fewer people can see the game and more can watch TV in vague proximity to it.

  22. You would think a campaign of “let’s spend lots of taxpayer money so our wealthiest customers can have an enhanced NFL game day experience” might be a tough political sell going forward, but I guess not. I suppose the promise of going 11-5 every 6 years is that lucrative.

  23. My neighbor still drives his ’92 Civic to work everyday. Man, can a Honda can now outlast a NFL stadium?

  24. One theory is that the stadium talk is a way to distract the fan base from the fact that the franchise QB is looking like a bust. The Olbermann theory is probably the correct one.

  25. 17 is old in stadium years. Like a man with a long grey beard and a cane, shuffling around slowly, ready for the rest home. We gotta build Danny Snyder a new palace–a publicly financed palace like the one I have under construction. I light a cigar with a 100 dollar bill every morning just thinking about that beautiful piece of real estate that’s gonna make me PILES of dough. Hopefully it lasts 17 years, but if not, I’ll be back demanding some more taxpayer subsidies, or it’s L.A. here I come! Cuz I’m pretty sure we still won’t have a team in L.A. 17 years from now, heh heh.

    I love the smell of public stadium cash in the morning!

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