FedEx Field is undergoing yet another facelift, but this time the Washington Redskins are taking seats out.
A major renovation to construct party decks at both ends of the stadium’s upper level is under way. The multimillion dollar project is expected to reduce the seating capacity by several thousand and conclude in time for the start of the 2012 season, according to a team source who requested anonymity because the Redskins have not officially announced the project.
A team spokesman declined comment, saying the club will divulge details at a later date.
Patrons who attended the Kenny Chesney concert at FedEx Field on Saturday noticed that several thousand seats have been removed from the upper deck above the end zones. The next phase of the project began Monday when cranes were brought in to begin removing the concrete to which those seats were attached.
Those altered areas are to become party decks, where fans will be able to watch games for the relatively low price of a standing-room-only ticket, the source said. The decks also will host pre- and post-game events, and they’ll be available to rent for private functions in the offseason.
The team source said the project was about “enhancing the fan experience” and unrelated to any possible decrease in demand for tickets. The Redskins, who have finished with a winning record only twice since 1999, are attempting to match features of other NFL stadiums, such as those at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Cowboys Stadium opened in 2009 with six party decks. For $20 a game, the Cowboys sell Party Pass season tickets that allow fans access to all of the decks. The Redskins are expected to offer a similar option.
Thousands of season-ticket holders whose seats are affected by the renovation will enter the Redskins‘ auto-relocation process. They will have the option to upgrade their seats to the lower level at an increased price, or they can relocate in the upper level at no additional charge, the source said.
The renovated stadium will feature a seating capacity of approximately 85,000, down from last year’s capacity of 91,704 but still among the largest stadiums in the NFL. The Redskins decided to decrease capacity without approaching those on their season-ticket waiting list because of the ongoing lockout, the source said.
Redskins policy calls for those on the waiting list who decline their opportunity to buy non-premium tickets to be moved to the back of the line. “Because of the uncertainty of the season, we didn’t want to put people [on the waiting list] in that spot,” the source said.
The current party deck project is rare in that it will decrease seating capacity so significantly. It contrasts how Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has consistently increased the stadium’s capacity over the years.
He added rows of “Dream Seats” at field level and installed obstructed-view seating at the back of one side of the lower deck. The stadium seated 80,116 when it opened in 1997.
The construction of the party decks follows a set of upgrades last season that cost approximately $20 million. They were highlighted by the installation of two 100-foot-long, high-definition videoboards. Other upgrades are in the works, the team source said.
The stadium has featured a continuous, enclosed seating bowl since it opened, but that is expected to change for the 2011 football season. The renovation likely will result in an open-air gap at both ends of the upper deck where the party decks eventually will be located, the source said.