D.C. mayor wants to build NFL stadium based on United funding model, this can’t end well

Washington, D.C. has shown a remarkable ability to elect people as mayor who, as soon as they land in City Hall, suddenly fall in love with building stadiums for the city’s sports teams. That’s nothing out of the ordinary — the strongest predictor of whether someone will support a sports subsidy is whether they’ve been elected mayor, according to a study that I’m sure someone will do someday — but D.C. really does seem to have mastered the art.

Which leads us to Muriel Bowser, who as a D.C. city councilmember wanted to spend public money on schools not stadiums, but as soon as she was elected mayor decided it’d be just great to fund a soccer stadium and a basketball arena and maybe a football stadium too. And speaking of that football stadium:

In an interview after her remarks, Bowser, who is running without serious competition for reelection in November, said that although she didn’t like the team’s name and for a period declined to use it, she was focused on reusing the land occupied by RFK Stadium now that D.C. United has departed for its own new stadium.

“We think all of our professional sports teams should be in our city limits,” Bowser said when asked why she believes the city would benefit from the Redskins’ return. “We think it’s important that in a world-class city, we have all of the major things — arts, culture, restaurants, theater and sports.”

I mean, sure? But just as you wouldn’t spend several hundred million dollars to open a new Shake Shack, there’s a price point at which getting an NFL team back within city limits (as opposed to the suburbs where they’ve been the last 21 years) makes sense, and one where it’s a massive waste of money. Bowser skipped right over this, though, choosing instead to blurt, “Bring it home!”, which is a great way to get stuck spending more than you really wanted to.

While Bowser didn’t go into any specifics on how much she’d spend on a new NFL stadium, she did say that her “model” was the D.C. United deal, which you’ll recall involved no direct construction money from the city but enough free land and tax kickbacks that it came to the largest public subsidy in MLS history. I would say that D.C. needs to find itself a better mayor, but 1) Bowser is considered a shoo-in for reelection this November and 2) everybody starts acting like this as soon as elected D.C. mayor, so what’s the point? Maybe they should consider holding a City Hall exorcism, though — Vatican operators are standing by!

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8 comments on “D.C. mayor wants to build NFL stadium based on United funding model, this can’t end well

  1. I’m thinking that whoever Snyder cons for this next stadium it won’t be a 90k seater.

    Also I don’t think it will 2/3 private money either like Jack Kent Cooke put up in the 90s.


    I’m glad DC city has solved all their other problems that they can now divert resources to build sports palaces

  2. I said it before and will say it again. Only reason DC United got a deal done was to bring back the NFL. Also a deal for the NFL will not have the team paying 100% of construction.

    1. Based on Nats Park and Audi Field–we know when a publicly funded NFL stadium gets built, it will be expensive, ugly, and overall disappointing.

      Somehow DCU managed to take the worst of British stadium architecture of the 1940s and combine it with the worst of American college football stadiums. And with sun glare too!

      1. GDub: Yeah, they managed to achieve the impossible… a new stadium that actually appears to be even more run down than their old one.

        When I first saw it I thought “this is why it is a mistake to try and build an MLS stadium on a shoestring budget of only $8m”… but…. whoops.

  3. Maybe President Trump was correct and the DC Mayor indeed smelled a windfall coming for the military parade he insists on. https://www.vox.com/2018/8/17/17716176/trumps-military-parade-postponed-92-million

    She was thinking ahead and planning using the $$$ for a city stadium. I guess in a creative way its tax increment financing.

  4. John McCain Field….cause ya might as well continue the tradition of DC football stadiums named after recently dead politicians.

  5. “although she didn’t like the team’s name and for a period declined to use it”

    That says it all right there. Hard to imagine going back on a decision like that unless you’re a politician who cares about nothing more than how the wind happens to be blowing at this very moment.

    1. Who was it who said that the great thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency?

      We live in an era when disgusting people are not only not shunned for their outright shamelessness, they are celebrated for it.

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