- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Redskins should return to Washington.

There, I said it.

I have no idea what Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, thinks or wants. But I suspect he’s aware of a few advantages that could benefit the team, the fans and the city of Washington.

First, though, let’s dispense with the economic outcry that surely will come from fiscal conservatives and others who would say taxpayers shouldn’t pay for stadiums. Get over it. Public-private partnerships have become the rule of thumb when it comes to building stadiums and arenas for professional sports teams and other entertainment venues, including convention centers.

And, while critics who worry about traffic, environmental effects and the like can be extremely vocal at the outset, yuppies, buppies, activists and nose-thumbers love nothing more than reeling in the dough from the tens of thousands of fans who attend events at those venues. Washingtonians are no exception.

Now consider the benefits. What, pray tell, are Washington’s economic benefits with a football team that practices in Northern Virginia but plays its home games in Maryland?

Zero. Nada. Nil.

Sure, D.C. denizens get a few sales-tax dollars when fans buy NFL merchandise at, say, Giant Food or jerseys at Modell’s. But really, folks, wouldn’t the city be better by getting rid of the gray elephant called RFK Stadium and turning the River Terrace/Kingman Park/Capitol Hill neighborhoods into a boomtown along the Anacostia River?

The land is there, and so are mass transit and parking possibilities, including a new streetcar line.

By the way, I do have mixed feelings about the site.

When I was a youngster, RFK’s Parking Lot 6 was called “the field,” a wooded area where we lulled around in treehouses we built with our fathers’ tools, and where we exchanged and read comic books, and cheered on the boys when they played marbles. Years later, many of us would plant ourselves in the bleachers at RFK, where as ‘Skins fans we would rock the aluminum bleachers to help intimidate opponents.

Those days ended after Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke moved the team to Maryland.

Don’t get me wrong; FedEx Field is a great stadium. It’s just that the stadium should be in Washington.

It’s not here because our city leaders and Cooke could not reach an agreement on who should pay what. In fact, any deal became impossible after our then-mayor, Sharon Pratt, called Cooke a “billionaire bully.” Well, Ms. Pratt is no longer mayor, Cooke has gone on to glory, dying of cardiac arrest in 1997, and the stars are realigning.

The city will likely have a new mayor and several changes in the legislature in January, and finding ways to raise new and additional revenue will be foremost on their minds. After the inaugurations, city leaders could quietly ask the city’s chief financial officer to quietly draw up three scenarios of a potential partnership to redevelop RFK.

One would look at D.C. paying for infrastructure and Mr. Snyder covering stadium construction to revive the dead zone, another would look at D.C. bearing total costs and a third would look at Mr. Snyder going solo. All three would include the potential for revenue.

That partnership is the route D.C. took with the Verizon Center, home to the NBA, WNBA and NHL franchises. It also is how owner Jerry Jones got that monster of a stadium built for the Dallas Cowboys for $1.5 billion. Even ‘Skins fans say they love the ‘Boys’ new home.

To the chagrin of Redskins fans who live in Virginia and D.C., Landover became the only jurisdiction hospitable to Cooke and his beloved football team.

But know this: The team didn’t abandon the city; the city abandoned the team.

The Washington Redskins belong in Washington.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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