There are a lot of questions about the Redskins’ new stadium, something that Dan Snyder told Comcast SportsNet’s Chick Hernandez was in the planning stages. There are only partial answers but here is the best information we have on what to look for.
Where will it be built?
Snyder said that it could go in Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia so that covers a lot of ground. The spot everyone focuses on is the current site of RFK Stadium in Washington. That was late owner Jack Kent Cooke’s preferred site for the stadium that ultimately ended up being FedEx Field. There are obstacles to getting it done there including the fact that the federal government must sign off on it, creating another later of red tape to deal with. But, to be sure, there are obstacles to getting it built anywhere.
Some speculation about a Maryland site centers on the National Harbor in Prince George’s County, just over the Wilson Bridge from Alexandria. That is an attractive area with hotels, restaurants, shops in place and a casino coming soon. But it has no Metro stop and the main access would be the Beltway, something that is considered to be one of the main drawbacks to FedEx Field.
There is no specific site in Virginia but you would have to think that the possibilities are being considered. The state is already home to Redskins Park and the team’s training camp in Richmond and there is little doubt that the state government would love to lure the other phase of the operation—playing the games—to the Commonwealth.
When will it be ready?
The short answer—don’t hold your breath. Cooke first announced his intention to build a new stadium to replace RFK in August of 1988. FedEx Field opened in 1997. The nine-year timetable is not exceptionally long, comparing it to stadiums being built or opened now.
Redskins fans who want to see this happen should hope it doesn’t turn out to be like the 49ers’ quest to replace Candlestick Park. My friend Matt Maiocco, 49ers reporter for CSNbayarea.com, told me that it took 30 years from when the Niners first started to consider a new stadium until the opening of Levi’s Stadium this year. The first funding ballot initiative took place in 1997.
It doesn’t have to take that long. In Atlanta, they started to seriously talk about replacing the Georgia Dome in 2010. Four years later construction is underway and the new stadium with a retractable dome is slated to open in time for the 2017 season.
The other new NFL stadium under construction, in Minneapolis, will end up being about a 10-year process. Plans were first announced in 2007. After some major setbacks in the Minnesota state legislature and a lot of searching for a suitable site, the location and funding were settled in 2013. It is scheduled to open for the 2016 season.
There are other factors that will play in to the opening date. Chief among them is the Redskins’ lease on FedEx Field, which isn’t up until 2027. This is not necessarily a deal breaker to opening a new stadium before that but it will require some negotiation.
What will it look like?
Here’s what Snyder said:
“We've already seen some preliminary drawings and I'm going to be very retro with it. It's gonna feel like RFK. It's gonna move like RFK. I love that, I actually asked architectural firms to do it and they said that they can do it. I said that I think the lower bowl sections are going to want to rock the stadium like the old days.”
The concept of a “retro” feel to a stadium is interesting. The recent stadiums opened in the NFL and the two slated to open in the near future have a very modern, even futuristic look and feel. Snyder could be going for what Baltimore did when Camden Yards was built, an old-time look and feel but with the modern amenities that fans expect these days.
However, fans expecting a cleaned-up version of RFK will be disappointed. That stadium held just over 50,000. That’s too small by today’s standards and way too small to host a Super Bowl, something Snyder said he would like to do in his new stadium.
Snyder said nothing about whether the preliminary drawings he’s had done were for an open-air venue, generally the least expensive option, a domed stadium, more costly than open air, or for a building with a retractable roof, usually the highest-priced way to go.
Who will pay?
Snyder will foot a good chunk of the bill. However, it’s unlikely that he will pay all of the construction costs like Cooke did (he did get some government help for roads and infrastructure). The reason? The costs have skyrocketed.
The $250 million that Cooke spent to build FedEx Field would translate to about $350 million in today’s dollars. But stadium costs have increased much more than just the cost of living would indicate. Levi’s Stadium (open air) cost $1.3 billion. The retractable roof facility in Atlanta will come in at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. The fixed-roof stadium in Minnesota is now estimated to cost $967 million but nobody would be surprised if it crept up over the billion-dollar mark by the time it opens.
Whatever portion Snyder does not pay will come from some combination of tax money and, possibly, personal seat licenses. Almost half of the teams in the NFL require fans to purchase licenses in order to buy season tickets. The new stadium in San Francisco and the upcoming facilities in Atlanta and Minneapolis all have some sort of PSL plans.
Some PSL’s are relatively inexpensive, others are way out of the reach of the average fan. PSL’s range from a low of $250 per seat in Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and other places to a high of $150,000 at Jerry Jones’ stadium in Dallas.
But before you season ticket holders get up in arms, wait and see. As noted above we are a long way from this happening and perhaps Snyder can find other financing options as the process unfolds.