Will D.C. Be the Next City Suckered Into Paying for an NFL Stadium?

The stadium building craze of the early 2000s has slowed, but the Redskins might be the next team to test the waters.


Aero-Imaging, Inc/Newscom

The opening of FedEx Field in 1997, home of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, helped kick-off a stadium-building frenzy across the country. By the time the Redskins' home turned 10, it was older than more than half of the stadiums in the 32-team league.

When it turned 20 last year, there were only 10 older stadiums around the league—and that number will grow smaller in the coming years when the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders ditch older facilities for brand new ones.

Seeing so many of his fellow team owners running around with younger, hotter models seems to have gotten Redskins' owner Dan Snyder a bit jealous. He's been flirting with local politicians in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. for years—FedEx Field was only 10 years old when Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, first started checking out his options—but things might finally be getting serious.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has gone on the record with her opinion that the Redskins should relocate to D.C., and two members of the D.C. city council told DCist this week that they would be in favor of bringing the Redskins back into the district. Neither Jack Evans nor Vincent Gray said anything about having the public contribute to the new stadium that would be a necessary part of luring the Redskins back into town, but that's pretty much implied any time a politician is talking about getting a professional team to relocate.

Five council members told DCist that they are opposed to public money going to a new Redskins stadium in D.C., and six refused to comment—so any stadium project faces an uphill, but not insurmountable, climb. "If history is any guide," jokes Neil deMause, author and stadium critic, "that's plenty enough votes available to be bought off—er, I mean of course convinced of the economic responsibility of the plan!"

Unlike most of the NFL stadiums built since 1997, FedEx Field was built with mostly private dollars. Then-owner Jack Kent Cooke, whose name graced the stadium when it first opened, put up the $180 million to build it, with Maryland taxpayers kicking in about $70 million for infrastructure improvements around the suburban D.C. site.

A replacement for FedEx Field is likely to cost taxpayers a lot more. Both the overall cost and the portion of those dollars paid by the public have increased dramatically in the past 20 years. The league's two newest stadiums—in Atlanta and Minneapolis—cost more than $1 billion to build, and taxpayers have covered at least 50 percent of the overall costs in all but three of the new NFL stadiums built in the 21st century. A 2010 proposal to replace RFK Stadium on the east side of D.C. with a retractable roofed football stadium had a prospective price tag of $2 billion.

Unlike other teams that have to threaten relocation to squeeze tax dollars out of local and state governments, Snyder seems to have a built-in geographic advantage. The Redskins can negotiate with officials in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland for the sweetest deal.

Bowser and other Washington officials are clearly swayed by the chance to bring the Redskins back into the city after their 1997 exodus to Maryland—and they might be motivated by the chance to replace the rusting hulk of RFK Stadium, now empty since the D.C. soccer team moved into a brand new, taxpayer-funded stadium along the waterfront. Virginia is the largest state, by population, to not have a team in any of the four major North American professional leagues, and officials there have been making eyes at Snyder for a while. Maryland could be hoodwinked into putting up millions of dollars to renovate FedEx Field in order to keep the team from leaving.

But it won't happen without a fight. Bills have been introduced this year in the Maryland and Virginia legislatures and the D.C. city council to eschew the spending of public dollars in pursuit of the Redskins. This supposed "cartel against corporate welfare," as the Washington Examiner termed it, would be a near-heroic rejection of the status quo.

Perhaps Snyder's politics will get in the way, too. He's a fan of and donor to President Donald Trump, and has steadfastly refused to change the team's name despite years of criticism. Regardless of what you may think of those decisions, they might make the deep blue D.C. City Council think twice about raiding the city treasury to build a new sporting palace.

Of course, local officials shouldn't need to dislike a team owner's politics to deny public funding for a new stadium. Stadium projects are notoriously bad deals for taxpayers and cities, rarely achieving the high levels of economic output projected in order to get the deal done.

Officials in D.C. should know this better than most, since they shelled out more than $600 million of other peoples' money to build Nationals Park a decade ago. Even though the stadium helped touch off explosive redevelopment in the Navy Yard neighborhood, it still probably wasn't worth the cost because the city is on the hook for $20 million in debt service payments every year for the next few decades (oh, and the team doesn't pay property taxes on their fancy stadium, either).

But if Snyder's support for Trump means he has to pay for his own new stadium—well, it's hard to feel bad for him.

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  1. Snyder supports Trump so he’s a poopy head and deserves to suffer.

    1. I thought “Snyder is a poopy head” is supposed to be the last thing that can unite America in these fractured times.

    2. Snyder isn’t a poopyhead because he supports Trump. Snyder is just flat out a poopyhead. There’s like, an entire dictionary a paper (I think the Washington Examiner) wrote about what a complete and utter asshole he is.

  2. I’m not paying for a troop- and flag-disrespecting showcase. Also, they need to change their name to something that doesn’t misappropriate Native American culture. Fix those two issues and then I’m fine mortgaging my children’s future for some football.

    1. Fix those two issues and then I’m fine mortgaging my children’s future for ready for some football.


    2. OK, how about we call the team the Washington Indian Killers. The new mascot could be a caucasian frontiersman with a bloody scalp hanging from his belt.

      1. Maybe they can draft N1ggerkiller Flake from BYU when the time comes. (By that time the increasingly desperate League will have probably adopted an XFL-style jersey name policy too.)

      2. As a Jewish person I am upset that nobody ever names sports teams after us. The St Louis Rabbis has a nice ring to it. We play sports. Look at Israel, they have won medals in…windsurfing. On second thought maybe it is just because we are not so good in sports, whatever.

        1. As a Jewish person I am upset that nobody ever names sports teams after us.

          Untrue; New Jersey named its NHL team after your people.

          1. Jews do not believe in devils, Satan, or any of that. Some other people invented that nonsense.

            1. You may want to take that up with the heretics who wrote the Bible. There’s a certain element of truth to your characterization, but only about half so.

              In any case, I wasn’t speaking of the role of Satan in Judaism; I was just parodying the common anti-Semitic rhetoric that the Jews themselves are devils. It’s very common through history; Farrakhan I think just used it this summer.

              1. L’Shana Tovah. Best of health and happiness to the Reason community.

                1. Oh that’s right! I haven’t been outside today and almost forgot. Happy New Year! Very early this year.

  3. Snyder can build his own stadium. Jerry Jones built his own and Stan Kroenke is building his own now.

    1. If I owned the Raiders, and if my plans for the statehouse to soak the taxpayers had fallen through (as it likely would have, as I lack even Mark Davis’s level of charm), I’d have called a press conference and announced, “Yeah, well…I’m gonna go build my own stadium! With blackjack! And hookers!” And then gone across the county line and done just that.

      1. There should be a brothel for season ticket holders.

        1. They already got screwed when they bought their tickets.

    2. No, please no. Given Snyder’s management skills it would probably be even worse than the disaster that is FedEx field.

    3. Ah, no. Jerry DID NOT ‘build his own’. The city of Arlington paid $325 million into the cost of the stadium, half of the (lowball) estimate at the time and their share was capped by contract. Fortunately for Arlington, as the cost ballooned to over $1 billion.

  4. It couldn’t happen to a better group of people.

  5. Bowser has me intrigued but not convinced. Which Federal buildings will have to be razed for this bit of cronyism?

  6. If Bowser is smart she will wait until the 16 year olds can vote this fall (which they will be able to do–for President–despite every conservative for some reason not acting like this is an enormous deal that will cause every blue state to follow within ten years) and then put the question to “the people”!

  7. Also, I like typing “Bowser” because it is a fun name. Bowser! Bowser!

    Editors! You need to start accompanying every piece on D.C. “…Mayor Bowser (pictured)…”

  8. I thought DC had passed some sort of ordinance banning any sport team with the name “redskins” from being located in the district.

    1. There’s an exception for really rich teams, duh.

      1. It would be funny to see Bowser chase some poor high school team from South Dakota out of Capital One after the kids from Sidwell invited them there for an exhibition game as a school project or something.

    2. I don’t know if that went through–but I’ll tell you what: she didn’t use the name when publicly calling for them to come home. I kinda think if she’s going to be unable to even pronounce the name when cutting the ribbon–“We are proud to announce the return of the Washington NFL team to the district!”–it might throw a bit of a wrench into it.

      Actually she has been trying to lure the Skins back to DC pretty much her whole time. Before this she kept trying to lure them back to RFK (where absolutely nobody is left now) with renovation promises. And as for the name, she has an official policy of not saying it–claims she doesn’t say it in private. But I have my suspicions about that last part, as she is always fucking up.

      Basically just one of the laundry list of reasons this is a farce and can go absolutely nowhere. No way is this woman going to be able to put up something that appeals to Snyder. No way is she going to be able to proudly bring Snyder and the Redskins to within the DC limits for no apparent reason or benefit to anyone but her ego. The wokeness factor will put it over the top and energize folks–even folks as dumb and masochistic as DC voters.

  9. OT: The Judge on Kavanaugh

    Is The Judge claiming here that Kavanaugh helped write the Patriot Act?

    1. Bah! Just when I was trying to calm down about Kavanaugh.

      Hizzoner has horrible board technique. It makes him look like a crazy person. If I was on his tenure committee I’d vote to deny just on that basis.

    2. This just keeps getting worse. Here is my list of the major Kavanaugh problems so far, each of which is bad enough by itself to disqualify him from the Supreme Court:

      The seat belongs to Merrick Garland.
      Drumpf is an illegitimate Kremlin asset who doesn’t deserve any SC picks.
      Kennedy’s retirement was suspiciously timed and still hasn’t been fully explained.
      Kavanaugh went into debt (supposedly) buying baseball tickets.
      Kavanaugh refused to shake hands with the father of a victim of gun violence.
      A woman behind Kavanaugh made white power hand gestures.
      Kavanaugh may have helped write the Patriot Act.

      The progressive / libertarian alliance needs to stop this dangerous right-wing extremist from joining our nation’s highest court. Call your Senators today!


      1. I find your alarm about the PATRIOT Act very suspicious. None of your proposed moderate Democrat partners for the emerging Liberal-tarian Alliance seem to have much of a problem with it.

        1. Yes, but you see Diego, alliances are built on compromise. I’m sure that if we just lower our expectations for free minds and free markets, the Democrats will follow suit on the PATRIOT Act. It’s just common sense, and necessary if we want to build this liberal-libertarian alliance.

        2. It’s clear that the yokel behind the OBL persona does not care about the 4th Amendment.

          1. Wait; you have some idea who it is? I initially thought it was John but now think that is quite unlikely. I can’t see how it matches up well with any of the regulars.

            1. I think it’s a lurker who saw an opening for a left-libertarian/prog/cosmotarian parody and decided to jump in.

              1. I’m convinced. It’s certainly as good a hypothesis as any. Well, he’s doing a good job; I like him! A few times in succession a while back he threw in some apropos-of-nothing shit about Israel that creeped me out a bit, and I bitched at him about it. (Matter of fact I think it was what brought me back after an extended absence.) So maybe between that and this he is getting a bit too yokel for my taste. But I very much enjoy the account and am glad he is here sharing it with us!

              2. My guess is it is one of the glibs. It is someone that is butthurt about Reason’s positions on immigration and Trump, which indicates a feeling of betrayal and hints at a previous relationship with Reason.

      2. Are you really serious about the “White Power” hand gestures? Gestures so well known and widespread that no one had heard of them before last week, and I seriously think they were made up by people trying to create a story out of thin air.

      3. I am surprised at you, OBL. You forgot to mention the disclosure by Corey Spartacus Booker of the top-secret smoking gun document, courageously released by him despite the fact that it had already been cleared for public distribution, that conclusively proves that Kavanaugh did not not un-support racial profiling!

  10. Nike will pay for the stadium.

    Called it Nike Stadium or what have you.

    Part of the Stadium will be a factory where Nike/Colin Kaepernick tribute shoes are made.
    The workers will be paid $50.00 an hour because that’s fair.

    1. It would be more appropriate to not bring the Skins there, and just build Kaepernick Stadium anyway without anyone ever actually playing in it.

      And what would be seats and concession areas should indeed all be shoe factory floor. But I think you have the rest of the plan wrong. They should pay the workers $.50 an hour plus gruel, and chain them to the radiators. If you have a woke shield you might as well use it.

      For bonus prog points: Far from hiding it, film the conditions and air it on a commercial in artsy black and white over some inspiring music. Because you see, all your workers are “undocumented Americans.” Nike is not afraid to take a stand against Trump’s hate.

      1. Great Idea = Just Do It Already !!!

  11. Kaepernick stadium will have no seats. Just kneeling pews.

    1. And only those who play poorly can be on the field.

      1. There is no field. Just a bench.

  12. Snyder should sell the team to Trump.

    Trump would build the greatest and most spectacular stadium ever, and make players kneel to him before each game.

    The stadium contractors would get their bills paid at 40% on the dollar to hold the cost down.

    The Redskins would be bankrupt within five years.

  13. “He’s a fan of and donor to President Donald Trump and has steadfastly refused to change the team’s name despite years of criticism. Regardless of what you may think of those decisions, they might make the deep blue D.C. city council think twice about raiding the city treasury to build a new sporting palace.” Really? You mean the city council will not take into account my opinion of Snyder’s decisions? Or any other Reason reader? Who would have known had Boem not let us in on this secret? Since there were numerous other times in this piece where Boem could have made similar ludicrously obvious qualifiers, why do you suppose he made it here? (FYI, I’m not really wondering)

    1. …and Boem goes the dynamite.

  14. Frankly, my dear – – – – – –

  15. Washington D.C. has a pro football team?

    1. No, but Landover, MD does.

      1. And if they’re anyplace even more depressing and traffic choked that downtown DC it’s Landover, MD.

  16. #ReleasetheSnyderCut

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