D.C. residents give resounding thumbs-down to mayor’s NFL stadium plans

Residents of the area around RFK Stadium really do not like Mayor Muriel Bowser’s idea to use the land for a new NFL stadium:

More than 150 residents of Capitol Hill filled a church gymnasium Wednesday night to propose ideas for re-use of the Robert F. Kennedy stadium property.

Most of the ideas centered around sports: playing fields, a pool, a boathouse, skating rinks, walking trails, even a velodrome.

There was one idea they widely and intensely opposed: building a new stadium for the Redskins. And almost every one of the more than 20 people who stood up to oppose a new NFL stadium did so without saying the team’s name.

Meanwhile, two former National Park Service workers who live near the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital site really do not like Mayor Bowser’s idea to use it for a new Wizards practice facility:

“I don’t think we need it over here,” said Alphonzo Walker, an unemployed 53-year-old who lives in Ward 8.

“I don’t know about this area,” said Eric Clark, also unemployed and in his 50s, though a few years older than Mr. Walker. “What’s going to happen to the homeless who live there?”

Okay, sure, small sample size. Still, the general principle is valid: If you have a plot of available land, and a plan to dedicate a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in city money towards it, what’s the best way to generate jobs and other benefits for the surrounding neighborhood, if that’s your goal? Think carefully before you answer.

D.C. mayor says she wants new NFL stadium at RFK site regardless of whether study says it’s a good idea

Brian Flahaven, the D.C. neighborhood commissioner who previously called out councilmember Vincent Orange’s crazy idea for a 100,000-seat NFL stadium on the RFK stadium site as crazy, now reports that Mayor Muriel Bowser has told him that she wants to pursue a new stadium on the NFL site as well — notwithstanding that the city’s stadium authority is in the middle of a study as to whether that makes sense:

When I asked Mayor Bowser to share her vision of the future of the RFK site during a recent meeting with ANC commissioners, she stated her desire to build a new football stadium at the site, calling the Events DC study a fallback plan.

Her rationale? Besides the site’s history of hosting football, Mayor Bowser noted the large size of the site and that a new stadium would not preclude other development activities. She also said that other cities have successfully built stadiums that have fit well into the surrounding neighborhood (though she didn’t mention specific cities or stadiums).

Flahaven doesn’t provide any direct quotes, so it’s impossible to know exactly what Bowser said here. Still, it’s an apparent shift from Bowser’s earlier position that she was looking to Events DC to determine whether the site should be developed “with a stadium or without a stadium.” Not that Bowser is likely to still be mayor when this is decided, given the way D.C. runs through mayors these days, but Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder sure must be happy to have at least one friend in a high place, even if actual D.C. residents seem to think it’s a terrible idea.

Washington NFL team won’t change name for new stadium, still likely to have plenty of stadium offers

Bruce Allen, president of Washington’s NFL team, was asked yesterday whether the team would consider changing its ethnic-slur name if that proved a roadblock to getting a new stadium. Allen’s answer:

“No,” he said.

This is consistent with what Allen’s boss, owner Daniel Snyder, has said all along, so no huge surprise here. It’s likely to be a roadblock to getting a new stadium on the RFK Stadium site in D.C., however, notes ESPN, since the federal government owns that site, and would need to approve a lease extension in order for a new stadium to be built there, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is an avowed opponent of the team name.

This would hardly leave the team high and dry, since, as ESPN notes, “Governors in both Maryland and Virginia have said Washington’s nickname would not be an issue in trying to get a stadium built.” (The team can also always wait out Jewell and see if the next Interior Secretary in 2017 is more amenable.) Also, you know, the team already has a stadium in Maryland that’s just 18 years old. Apparently ESPN doesn’t think that’s remarkable enough to be worth mentioning, though, and given the way things are going in the NFL, maybe it isn’t.

Obama administration won’t allow Washington NFL stadium on RFK site unless team changes name

We all pretty much knew that the Washington NFL team wasn’t going to get a new stadium in D.C. unless it changed its racist nickname, but now it’s official:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Of course, President Obama is only going to be in office another year and a half, so it’s entirely possible that a new interior secretary would change the NPS policy on this come 2017. And D.C. officials were unlikely to approve a stadium without a name change anyway. But as far as sending a “Mr. Snyder, tear down that nickname!” message, it’s about as strong as they come.

D.C., Maryland, Virginia ready three-way race to throw money at Washington’s next NFL stadium

It’s early yet, but it looks like Washington’s NFL team is setting up for a three-way bidding war to see who’ll get to build the replacement for FedEx Field, which is 18 years old already, why is this taking so long? According to the Washington Post:

[Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe] has pitched multiple sites for a stadium in Loudoun County along the unbuilt second leg of Metro’s Silver Line, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. Those people say that Virginia officials have also begun discussing infrastructure costs and legal agreements with the team.

Maryland, where the team has played for nearly two decades, has just begun its own effort to keep the Redskins, led by new Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who proclaimed support for the team’s moniker during his campaign. Hogan said he recently pitched Redskins owner Daniel Snyder on staying in Maryland during a two-hour meeting.

D.C., meanwhile, hasn’t had any talks lately with Snyder since people finished laughing at councilmember Vincent Orange’s laughable 100,000-seat stadium plan, but it’s still always on the back burner, especially now that D.C. United will be leaving RFK Stadium, making that site available for a possible future football stadium. Snyder undoubtedly knows that bidding wars are the best way to get politicians to open taxpayers’ wallets with alacrity — it worked amazingly for the Nationals, after all — so he’s starting early.

And in case you’re wondering whether Snyder signed a lease at FedEx Field when it opened in 1997: Sure he did, and it runs through 2027, but that’s not going to stop him from talking about building a new stadium now — especially if he thinks that he can either get a new suitor to help him buy his way out of the end of that lease, or get Maryland to let him break the lease in exchange for not hopping across the state border. This is why “no talking about new stadiums” lease clauses are so important, and why the St. Petersburg city council is absolutely justified in not wanting to let the Tampa Bay Rays out of theirs for cheap.


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.