SNIDER: Want the Skins back in D.C.? The city needs to pay to play

Rick Snider
November 22, 2019 - 4:05 pm
Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke celebrates during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C. The Redskins won the game, 19-15.

Doug Pensinger /Allsport

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It seems the Redskins are welcome to return to the RFK site, only District residents don’t want to pay for it.

Sorry, that’s not how this works.

A Washington Post poll of District dwellers showed 59 percent want the Redskins to return to their former 1961-96 home, but only 28 percent want the city to help pay for a stadium that may top $2 billion.

There are so many compromises needed for the Redskins to return in 2027 when their FedEx Field deal ends. With Maryland giving stadium-like money to Baltimore to resurrect Pimlico Race Course to keep the Preakness Stakes and Virginia opting for a cash-giveaway to Amazon to build the latter’s eastern headquarters, Washington is the Redskins’ remaining option.

It has always been the best venue for the team.

America’s future centers around mass transportation and major cities. Sticking the next stadium in the far suburbs like Loudoun County is lunacy. RFK already has one metro stop and a second in the planning stage and a new stadium will revitalize not only the neglected eastern edge of town, but also citywide restaurants.

In olden days, many restaurants offered brunch to fans who would cross town on Metro to reach the game. It was money spread throughout the city as an unappreciated economic development.

But the game plan for the team’s return is filled with hurdles.

First, the city needs to either acquire the land from the Interior Department or extend the lease. The feds don’t seem interested.

Could it be a political payback after city voters overwhelming opposed President Donald Trump in the 2016 election and snubbed his inauguration? Nah, that couldn’t happen.

Second, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder needs to shoulder the financial burden. The days of heavily tax-subsidized stadiums are long gone. Residents don’t want to see a billionaire get substantial tax money. But, the city will soon permit sports wagering. Why not use some of those profits to fund part of a Redskins venue?

Sports venues in cities are good investments as proven by Capital One Arena revitalizing the Penn Quarter and Nationals Park creating a building boom in the Navy Yard. Certainly, the new RFK could help bolster the riverfront revitalization being planned.

Snyder needs a creative approach to show the stadium’s benefits and not pull a greedy power play given he has no other viable options. What, Snyder will threaten to move to Richmond or even London? The NFL is not letting a team leave the nation’s capital.

Third, Snyder needs to make peace with nearby residents who are firmly against a stadium. They want at most a venue for concerts and other events rather than just 10 games per season and a couple of concerts. The late Jack Kent Cooke funded the nearby Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex as part of a political payoff when building FedEx Field.

The team has seven years until kickoff, but really two years until a deal must be done. Given Redskins president Bruce Allen’s poor public rating, it’s best Snyder finds a new rainmaker. Otherwise, FedEx may become a long-term home and few want that.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.