Washington NFL owner wants new DC stadium that “feels like RFK”

Daniel Snyder’s Washington football team has sent out a survey to season ticket holders about what they’d like to see in a new stadium to replace 18-year-old FedEx Field, and blah blah blah, this is an old gimmick to get people excited about the prospect of a new stadium, so really the less said about it the better, unless you really think Snyder is going to decide on how many seats to build based on an email poll. I do like this bit, though:

“We’ve already seen some preliminary drawings, and I’m going to be very retro with it,” Snyder said then. “It’s going to feel like RFK. It’s going to move like RFK.”

Hey, you know where Snyder can get a retro stadium that feels like RFK, cheap? I’ll give you a hint.

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.

D.C. council holds dumbest hearing ever on dumbest stadium idea ever

So the Washington, D.C. council held that hearing yesterday on councilmember Vincent Orange’s plan for a 100,000-seat football stadium/hotel/golf course/indoor water park/etc. on the site of RFK Stadium, and I’m sure there was lots of important testimony about how much it would cost and how it would be paid for and stuff like that. Right? Right?

“I believe RFK Stadium and the surrounding land could be turned into a successful financial venture for the District of Columbia,” testified D.L. “Corky” Calhoun, a D.C. business executive and former member of the 1976 championship NBA Portland Trail Blazers.

“Like the Washington Wizards and the Washington Nationals the Washington Redskins should be playing their games here in a facility in Washington D.C.,” said Calhoun.

Okay, people in the sports world think sports teams are peachy keen. What else?

“It creates new opportunities and lots and lots of new jobs. One hotel, the size of 500 rooms, could create as many as 1,000 new jobs in the area,” [Hotel developer William] Conway testified.

And hotel developers think hotels are peachy keen. Come on, somebody testified about the details of the plan, right?

“If there is to be a new football stadium built in the metropolitan region, and the Redskins organization certainly wants that, there is no better site than where RFK now sits,” declared D.C. Council member Jack Evans, a member of the Economic Development Committee.

We got it, people like football. Anybody?

District resident Ronald Dixon said, “The Redskins need to be in D.C. Because they are a destination. You can build on that.”

From the looks of things, the only person who actually talked about economics or finances was neighborhood advisory commission chair Brian Flahaven, whose website I’ve linked to before, and who raised the issue of a football stadium being a terrible anchor for hotels, given that “there’s only ten football games a year … plus maybe you get a concert here or there. The rest of the year, the stadium is not open… it just sits there.” Which is an interesting point, but, you know, FOOOOOOOOTBALLLLLLLLLL!!!! Because that’s what public oversight is all about.

Council development chair opposes D.C. United land swap, could block stadium deal

When last we checked in on D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s D.C. United stadium plan, three city councilmembers were anonymously griping about the tax breaks and city-subsidized land swaps that would help fund construction. Now one of the three — or maybe a fourth, who can tell since they were anonymous? — has gone public with her complaints:

D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said Wednesday that she wouldn’t support Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s proposal to trade away the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center in order to help pay for a new D.C. United soccer stadium on Buzzard Point.

Bowser, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, said she would rather see the city’s capital dollars go to improving the city’s middle schools.

It’s a reasonable enough argument, considering that D.C. is totally capable of selling the Reeves Center property and using the proceeds for anything it wants to, not just a soccer stadium. (It’s also worth noting that Bowser has made the “let’s give money to schools first” argument before, albeit in not such strong terms.) Bowser’s opposition could be key, as her role as development chair means that she can block any land use legislation from even coming up for consideration, so Gray seemingly needs to make her happy if he wants to get this deal through.

In other D.C. stadium news, meanwhile, the council is considering (or at least holding a hearing on) councilmember Vincent Orange’s plan for a 100,000-seat NFL stadium and Marvin Gaye-themed music venue and “nationally recognized” chain restaurants and a whole mess of other stuff on the site of RFK stadium, which would only cost a billion jillion dollars and be impossible in umpteen other ways. You can watch live here (click on Room 120) if you want to join in the hilarity.

Bill for crazy 100,000-seat D.C. stadium plan is crazy in excruciating detail

We’ve already covered D.C. councilmember Vincent Orange’s screwy idea for a 100,000-seat football stadium on the site of RFK Stadium, but I didn’t get a chance to read the actual bill when it came out shortly thereafter. Neighborhood commissioner Brian Flahaven did, though, and has published a blog post summing up the details of Orange’s proposal, or as the Washington City Paper calls it in their own blog item, “The 5 Strangest Parts of Vincent Orange’s RFK Stadium Plan.” These include:

  • Music venues honoring Marvin Gaye and Chuck Brown, plus “a District-themed sport store specializing in merchandise and apparel featuring national and international sports teams.”
  • “Two ‘nationally recognized’ department stores, two nationally recognized family restaurant chains, one nationally recognized chain bar or nightclub, one nationally recognized high end restaurant, one nationally recognized movie theatre, one independently owned restaurant and a beer garden,” writes Flahaven. “The bill is silent on whether the beer garden must be nationally recognized.”
  • A “hotel zone” with 1,000 rooms, a 24-hour spa, and “health conscious café open 7 days a week featuring juice and smoothies bar, organic foods and healthy eating options.” Plus another 200- to 300-room hotel in the indoor waterpark.
  • Did I forget to mention the indoor waterpark? With conference and meeting facilities? As Flahaven writes, “I’m not sure why you would build conference and meeting facilities in the waterpark and a pool facility in the hotel zone.”

There’s more — oh, so much more — but if you want to read about the golf course and the soundstage, you can read the bill for yourself at the bottom of the City Paper’s article. Suffice to say that I’m sorry I waited a month to read it, because it’s easily the craziest piece of legislation just authorizing a feasibility study I’ve ever seen — when a councilmember gets down to the level of detail where he specifies “private screening rooms capable of both 35mm and digital projection,” you have to wonder if he knows that this thing is never going to get built, and is just taking his one opportunity to pretend he’s Richie Rich.

D.C. councilmember proposes building 100,000-seat NFL stadium

Washington, D.C. Mayor councilmember (sorry, got my “Taking of Pelham One Two Three” characters mixed up) Vincent Orange wants to build a 100,000-seat “superdome” on the site of RFK Stadium to lure the NFL team with the horrible nickname back to town. Yeah, you read that right.

The 100,000 seat domed stadium complex would provide the opportunity for the Washington football team to return to the District as well as host large scale events such as Super Bowls, Final Fours, the Olympics, and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) Soccer. “RFK is an antiquated and deteriorating stadium, and with D.C. United set to relocate, RFK will become an even bigger financial drain on the city,” Orange said. “The economic opportunities and employment opportunities that would result from a state-of-the-art stadium in the District are limitless.”

This is beyond screwy, not least of which because the trend in the NFL is to want fewer seats, not more than any stadium on the continent. But Orange is thinking big! So big that he can’t even be bothered to think about how much it will cost or who will pay for it — though given that he’s indicated that he wants the whole thing built by the time the NFL team’s lease in Maryland is up in 2027, he can probably leave details like that to the next mayor.

So why the heck is he announcing this now? To get credit for thinking big, certainly, though it also undoubtedly gives a boost to the city’s 2024 Olympic bid, plus helps D.C. United in their talking points for their new stadium in Buzzard Point. (“We can’t stay at RFK! It’s going to be torn down to make way for the Enormodome!”) Plus it gave DCist the chance to use the best vaportecture illustration of all time, so it can’t be all bad.

NFL considers using league money for Washington stadium upgrades, signaling G-4 fund rule change

This is a really short news item in the Washington Post, and I’m not sure what to make of it:

NFL owners are expected to vote Tuesday on providing league funding to the Washington Redskins for renovations to FedEx Field, two people familiar with the situation said.

The Redskins declined to provide details, but one of the people with knowledge of the matter said the $27 million renovation includes seating modifications, wi-fi, ribbon boards (a form of stadium signage) and a Hall of Fame expansion.

This is the second instance (the previous being the Philadelphia Eagles) of the NFL considering committing G-4 funds to a stadium upgrade project, despite there being no public money involved. Which is only strange because the G-4 rules clearly state that the money needs to go to public-private partnerships, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reiterated this to Miami officials as recently as this spring when he was trying (and failing) to get public subsidies for stadium renovations.

If the NFL has changed its rules for G-4 funding, that’d be great, as clearly the league has plenty of cash on hand to help teams with their stadium costs. If so, though, you’d think they’d at least announce it — though actually, given that there are still plenty of NFL teams trying to hit up their local governments for money by saying they have nowhere else to turn, maybe they wouldn’t.

What Washington needs is to spend $4-6 billion to host Olympics, says Olympic hosting committee

Washington, D.C.’s Olympic organizing committee has announced plans to … bid to host the Olympics, dummy, what do you think Olympic organizing committees do?

According to USA Today’s Kelly Whiteside (hi, Kelly!), hosting the 2024 Summer Games is expected to cost D.C. from $4-6 billion, including building a new stadium for track and field and the opening and closing ceremonies (and, possibly, for the city’s NFL team later on). Whiteside also notes that D.C. 2024 president Bob Sweeney said the city is “in a better position to host with a convention center, a new baseball park and an improved Metro system,” which might be more convincing if baseball were actually sure of being included in the Olympics.

I’ve written at length in the past about what a boondoggle hosting the Olympics has been for other host cities, so instead, I’ll leave it to U.S. News’s Pat Garafolo, who calls it the worst idea in Washington:

But what about the myriad economic benefits that will come with hosting the games? As I wrote in the Baltimore Sun last year when the prospect of a D.C.-Baltimore bid first arose, those benefits are mostly a mirage. Economist Jeffrey Owen put it this way: “To date there has not been a study of an Olympics or other large-scale sporting event that has found empirical evidence of significant economic impacts. … It is unlikely that anyone ever will.”…


For D.C. residents (myself included) there will, of course, be more parochial reasons to gripe about a D.C. bid, such as the inevitable traffic and delays associated not just with the games, but with the construction that will precede them for years on end. But the reason that non-residents should care whether or not D.C. plays host in 2024 is that the Olympics keep getting more expensive, cities keep getting less out of them, and yet lawmakers and corporate sponsors keep pushing for ever more elaborate facilities and spectacles to be foisted onto the backs of taxpayers who should be paying for new services that can make their own daily lives a little bit better.

D.C. mulls what to do with RFK if United leaves

One big piece of the proposed $290 million D.C. United stadium deal that hasn’t been much discussed is what would happen to RFK Stadium, the former home of the Washington Senators and Nationals that currently hosts soccer and not a whole lot else. But apparently D.C. officials have been thinking about it, because they tell the Washington Post that … okay, that they’re going to start thinking about it any day now?

[D.C. sports authority president Gregory] O’Dell said the authority will hire a firm in the coming months to evaluate options, with and without a stadium. It also will explore whether it makes sense to keep RFK standing and operating in the interim. “We’ll look at the as-is condition and what’s viable and financially feasible,” he said.

The city’s lease with the National Park Service, which owns the RFK site, limits it to “stadium purposes,” “recreational facilities, open space, or public outdoor recreation opportunities,” or “other similar public purposes”; this has plenty of people thinking “new stadium for Washington’s football team that shall go nameless,” including both Mayor Vincent Gray and mayoral candidate Jack Evans, who’ve both endorsed the site for football games. (“And not just for college games,” added Gray, in case anyone might have missed his point.) Of course, this would mean finding a way to pay for a football stadium on top of a soccer one, but let’s not think about that just yet, shall we?

D.C. councilman: Let’s build a $2B Redskins stadium! With laser turrets!

If you’ve been missing D.C. councilperson Jack Evans, sponsor of stadium bills for the Washington Nationals (approved) and D.C. United (not yet), heeeeeee’s baaaaaaack:

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, says Fedex Field, the Washington Redskins’ home for the past 13 years, is steadily aging and will soon be ready for a replacement. He points to RFK Stadium, the team’s former home until they left in 1997, as a prime location for a new, state-of-the-art facility — and not just to host the gridiron.

WTOP reports, entirely with a straight face, that Evans wants to spend $2-3 billion to replace RFK with a 110,000-seat retractable-roofed stadium that could host the NFL, the World Cup, and the Olympics. But then, the news radio station also wrote with a straight face that bit about a 13-year-old stadium being “steadily aging” — which may be technically true, but it’s not generally what people mean by “aging.”

Of course, most of this is likely about sucking up to Redskins fans in the District by making a public play to get the team back within city limits. DCist sums it up nicely:

Look, FedEx isn’t the greatest stadium in the world, but for what it was designed for — to cram as many Redskins fans as possible into one space for games — it still works fairly well. There are several stadiums in the NFL that are older and less appealing than FedEx (see: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum). And as far as Evans’ assertions about the World Cup and the Olympics go: the chances of us being a host for the former wouldn’t really improve with a new stadium; the latter is, with all due respect to the Councilmember, a pretty massive pipe dream.

The Redskins still assert that they’ll stick at FedEx until at least 2027 when their lease expires, and it’s difficult not to believe them — at least until politicians stop using the idea of a new stadium in D.C. as a political miracle waiting to happen (where is that $2-3 billion dollars coming from, Councilmember?), rather than pushing forward an actual plan that might be feasible.