A month after it looked like the Washington Commanders stadium quest had successfully led to a bidding war of sorts, the NFL team seemingly has fewer options and attracted interest from Congressional investigators.
On Feb. 22 we wrote that Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia had stepped up with various incentives toward a new Washington Commanders stadium, putting the NFL team is in the enviable position of being wooed while pursuing a new stadium and mixed-use development.
Since then things have fallen apart. First, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan came out against the idea of using any sort of tax dollars to attract the Commanders as an anchor for any new development, telling the Washington Post that the team was merely using his state as leverage to attract better offers from Virginia and D.C. Now, Hogan’s opposition doesn’t kill the idea of the Maryland stadium development, but it does make things a little more difficult in terms of state financial support. Second, Virginia lawmakers adjourned the current session without taking any action on a proposed new Commanders stadium there. Third, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing a $60 million mixed-use development at the RFK Stadium site with or without the Commanders–if the federal government transfers control of the 190-acre site to the District that is. But that’s apparently not happening anytime soon because Congress doesn’t seem to inclined to give up control if there’s a chance an NFL stadium is built there, as the Commanders ownership and management are under federal investigation for creating a culture of sexual harassment. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has sponsored legislation for such a transfer, but that’s on hold.
Two other recent issues arose, clouding the future even more. For starters, there are no plans at this time to tear down RFK Stadium. Events DC had at one point issued a contract for demolition in 2020, but withdrew it after objections from the losing bidders. Since then there’s been little action on a demolition plan, so it won’t be 2024 at the earliest until the former Senators and Redskins home comes down after a two-year process. Then the news broke that the House Oversight committee investigating the alleged culture of sexual harassment has expanded its investigation to cover potential alleged financial improprieties. If Congress was unwilling to cede control of the RFK Stadium in the past, these additional allegations will certainly complicate things even further.
Now, putting together a Commanders stadium deal was going to be a huge challenge under the best of circumstances; after all, when you have two states, the District of Columbia, county governments, the federal government (the National Park Service controls the RFK Stadium site) and Congress, the path forward already was pitted by plenty of Hummer-sized potholes. But with the team under Congressional investigation, it became an even dicier proposition.
Photo of the team’s current home, FedEx Field, courtesy Washington Commanders.
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