- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The prospects for a collective-bargaining deal between National Football League owners and players that would lead to preseason and regular-season play are growing brighter.

But regardless of whether a deal is brokered, D.C. officials had better watch their backs because Maryland officials may be gaining on them again as Prince Georges County leaders renew a battle over the Washington Redskins.

City hall should fight for Ol’ D.C.

This new fight is over replacing the Skins antiquated, outdoor training facilities in Ashburn, Va., where snowstorms and hard rain disrupt practices every season.

General Manager Bruce Allen wants new facilities. So does head coach Mike Shanahan.

And why not? Not only does Mother Nature threaten preseason camps, but players and staff have to trek from facilities in Virginia to FedEx Field in Maryland on game day, and Skins owner Dan Synder, who lives in Maryland, makes the commute in reverse.

Prince George’s, which is just as hard up for new revenues as the District, is mulling a proposal to build a new Redskins facilities near Bowie State University.

Maryland won the last go-round involving the team in the 1990s, when then-owner Jack Kent Cooke considered sites in Virginia and Maryland before striking a deal that landed the stadium just inside the Beltway, in Landover.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III made his first offensive in May, requesting a feasibility study for a potential headquarters and training facility.

“Prince George’s County has been proud to host the players and fans of the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field,” he said in a letter to the Maryland Stadium Authority. “We are now expressing an interest in becoming the permanent headquarters of this much-beloved and storied franchise.” Those are fighting words, and now is not the time to punt.

Now is the time to develop a united strategy, starting with D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, D.C. Council members Jack Evans and Michael A. Brown, and key members of Congress and the Washington business community.

We don’t need no stinking feasibility study.

We don’t need to wait for the owners and players to strike a deal.

We don’t even need to worry about a site.

The RFK Stadium-National Guard Armory-Reservation 13 site has been begging for development since the bleachers at RFK fell silent for football in 1997.

Back then, the city was politically bankrupt and wallowing in red ink. It had not one chip with which to bargain with Cooke or other stakeholders who fled the city, including longtime residents who moved out of the city’s eight wards and into Prince George’s, which affectionately is nicknamed Ward 9.

Well, bring it on.

Lure Redskins officials by letting them know that relocating training facilities (and possibly team headquarters) to the nation’s capital will be far easier than bargaining with a union.

Let them know the city is prepared, as usual, to handle public-works aspects of the construction.

And do not - I repeat, do not - bog down discussions with such deal killers as hiring and first-source agreements.

Let them know that we are thinking big time with easy-in, easy-out transportation accommodations, new hotels, if necessary, and a Redskins Hall of Fame Museum.

And let them know that a welcome mat for a new Redskins stadium is already under production.

Last week, after the mayor unveiled his new economic development strategy, I told him all that remains is bringing the Redskins back home.

We shook hands and shared a hearty laugh, but it’s no joking matter.

The Redskins belong in Washington, and D.C. leaders should fight for them until the fat lady cries “uncle.”

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