Keep the Redskins in Maryland

This effort to bring the Redskins back into Washington is completely absurd. I’m as big a District partisan as you’ll find, but it really doesn’t bother me that the team currently plays its games 3 miles outside of the District. Mayor Fenty and Councilman Jack Evans seem excited by the opportunity to replace RFK with a new, domed stadium, which might, according to the linked story, be adjacent to Redskins practice facilities, and which almost certainly would include some surface parking (and perhaps quite a lot). The new stadium complex would, in other words, occupy most or all of the area currently devoted to RFK and surrounding parking lots.

That would be a tragedy. That land is a blank slate. It has good access to one Metro station already, and an infill station could be added at Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue. Before long, a streetcar line will run down Benning Avenue, as well, connecting the land to H Street and Union Station. This place has the potential to be a major new focus of District life, containing residences, offices, and retail options, home to thousands of people and jobs generating a lot of revenue for the city and taking full advantage of a prime riverside spot.

Or, it could house a stadium, where 10 times a year people come to watch football, and where the rest of the year a few very rich men gather to practice football. It seems highly unlikely that Dan Snyder would consider a move without some lucrative incentives from the city, and it seems highly unlikely that the stadium complex would do much to boost neighborhood economic development, given the frequency of stadium events and the fact that most of the usable land would go toward stadium-related uses.

The only upsides would be civic pride (if you think that Washingtonians would take pride in the handing over of so much valuable land to an NFL franchise) and improved Metro access to Redskins games. But there are far easier and better ways to get people to FedEx field without the use of cars.

I would accept this if Dan Snyder agreed to pay for the stadium with his own money, if he accepted that there would be no surface parking, if he chipped in on infrastructure improvements including investments in the streetcar line, infill station, and street grid, and if the land immediately around the stadium could be developed as a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood. Barring all that, this would be a boondoggle of the highest order — an embarrassment for DC.

When will the city’s leaders understand what actually makes cities great, and that that doesn’t include moving a team six miles west just so you can say it plays within your borders?

Comments

  1. I’m with you all the way on this one, Ryan, right down to the “I would accept this if…” paragraph.

    I’m STILL mad about D.C. spending $700M to hold onto a team (the Nats) that wasn’t going anywhere.

    And when it comes to football: aside from the privileged (relative) few with season tickets, we all watch the game on TV. The game itself could be anywhere, and it wouldn’t matter.

  2. Tom says:

    Ryan,

    Congratulations. I didn’t know that you were in charge of stadium negotiations with the Redskins.

    Low-tech
    DC was trying to attract the Nat (then known as the expos) not hold on to them.

  3. Tom,
    The Council vote took place after the 2005 season. The Nats had already been here for a year, and it had been a very successful year in terms of attendance. By that time, it was clear that none of the alternatives were remotely as good a location for a MLB team as DC was.

    What DC had was what was seen at the time as one of the top five markets in the U.S. and Canada for a MLB team. All of the other top 25 or so markets were taken. DC was in a position to strike a much better deal, because the Nats were likely to be much worse off in any other available market.

  4. Phil says:

    Aside from the fact that a football stadium is a bad idea on the merits, as a District taxpayer I don’t want a single cent of my money going to a team that uses a disgusting racial slur as its name.

  5. Christopher says:

    I’d like to see this way other cities from SF to Tokyo have built or planned urban stadiums: as part of an overall small area plan that includes a variety of amusement activities, housing and other community benefits. I know, I know. This is DC so this won’t happen, But boy would it be nice.

    The Tokyo Dome is not only the site of local and international competitions (and let’s be frank no domed stadium sits empty most of the year, they get used for all kinds of different usages: concerts, truck pulls, international exposition games). But is next to a in city amusement park with ferris wheel and roller coaster, and next to a vertical shopping center with renowned spa. It’s an entertainment district.

    SF has pitched a new home for the 49ers (that want to move to Santa Clara) with a new stadium, housing, artist work spaces, theaters, and a large public park. And without acres of surface parking.

    (Tokyo unsurprisingly has no adjacent parking.)

    As for practice areas? What team in what city has their practice areas by their stadium. Now THAT’S a bad use. There’s no other use for it. Chicago, SF, Oakland, DC all have practice areas close to the sort of wealthy enclaves that the coaches, owners and players call home. That actually makes sense.

  6. monkeyrotica says:

    Federal law dictates that RFK can ONLY be used as a stadium; Evans, Norton et al have been negotiating that point for years to no avail. Ideally, you’d have some kind of stadium AND mixed used residential/retail, but an RFK redevelopment without a stadium is a dealbreaker. Why do you think the biggest parcel of undeveloped property downtown has been lying fallow all these years?

  7. “Why do you think the biggest parcel of undeveloped property downtown has been lying fallow all these years?”

    Despite my ignorance of this interesting Federal law, there seemed to be plenty of other explanations. First of all, RFK was occupied by the Redskins through 1996, and then the Nats were there from 2005-07, so it’s only been “lying fallow” for a pretty short time.

    And the RFK area is a pretty good ways from the rest of the downtown, in a part of the city where white people don’t have much reason to go to (and don’t tend to go without a reason). It’s only been very recently that developers have shown nontrivial interest in putting together developments that far east within D.C.

  8. monkeyrotica says:

    @low-tech cyclist – I think the residents of East Capitol Hill, Potomac Avenue, and Barney Circle would take issue with the way you characterize their neighborhoods. The fact is you have a huge parcel that’s adjacent to a major interstate, has it’s own underutilized Metro stop, and is mostly asphault. This could be a major mixed use destination that will get even more use once the H Street corridor and waterfront development kicks into high gear. Instead, it’s had nothing but intermittent use for years.

  9. Ralph Garboushian says:

    I wish Ryan was in charge of negotiations with the Nationals and the Redskins!!! When it came to the Nationals, DC was in a great negotiating position against MLB: the players union would allow for contraction and none of the other candidates for hosting the team (Portland, Las Vegas, Monterrey) even come close to the demographics that metro DC has to offer. From that relatively strong bargaining position, Mayor Williams essentially gave up the store. No matter how you feel about public financing of the ballpark, you have to agree that MLB pretty much owned DC in those negotiations. DC was in a position to strike a much harder bargain.

    As for the current use of the RFK property, Ryan has hit the nail on the head. I (a white person) live two blocks away and have to pass those awful surface parking lots every time I get on or off the Metro. Ugh! We can do much better……

  10. hillo says:

    Lowtechcyclist says:
    “And the RFK area is a pretty good ways from the rest of the downtown, in a part of the city where white people don’t have much reason to go to”
    —–
    You are ignorant. Pedal over to this side of town and take a look.
    We don’t need a stadium, we need something that compliments the diverse neighborhood that surrounds the empty RFK parking lots.

  11. Ralph Garboushian says:

    Typo: I should have written that the union would NOT allow for contraction….