- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 14, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The biggest news about the plans for the District to build a new soccer stadium for D.C. United is that it has sparked interest in plans for a new football stadium for the Washington Redskins — and where that new stadium might be.

Reports are the city will pay $150 million for land acquisition and preparation at the Buzzard Point site, while the team would put up about $140 million for construction of a 20,000 seat soccer stadium. The total price tag is believed to be around $290 million.

That would be a little more than the cover charge for a new Redskins stadium — which could rise to more than $1 billion, depending on the timing of when the team would be willing to vacate FedEx Field in Landover — a stadium the team owns — and abandon the lease they signed with the State of Maryland, who put up the money for infrastructure costs, that is set to expire in 2027.

Redskins officials appear ready to start the move, entertaining discussions for a new home with officials from Maryland, the District and Virginia.

Virginia would seem to have the edge. But the presence of a nearby NFL franchise may complicate that scenario.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has made her feelings known about bringing the team back to the city, where it resided from the move from Boston in 1937 to the move to the new Landover stadium in 1997. But it’s complicated — and slightly embarrassing — because the mayor or city officials have condemned the name of the team.

“We know the perfect location for the Redskins where they played for decades very successfully,” she told reporters.

The name may be moot by the time the negotiations get down to serious discussions, if the movement to change the name is successful. But if not, it is difficult to imagine those talks being productive if city officials can’t even bring themselves to utter the name of the team.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has made it clear he has no problems using the Redskins name, and confirmed recently he met with owner Daniel Snyder about keeping the football team in the state.

Virginia, though, seems like it has a leg up. Gov. Terry McAullife recently laid out some of the reasons why in a Washington Post story.

“I am aggressively pursuing the deal, but in fairness we aggressively pursue every deal. We don’t leave any stones unturned,” he said. “There is an interest — they are aggressively looking for a new stadium opportunity We have 66 percent of the season ticket holders in Virginia. Every player lives in Virginia.”

All the Redskins political capital would appear to be in Virginia as well. It was Bruce Allen who helped lobby for the sweetheart deal that led to the Redskins new training camp facility in Richmond — a money-losing proposition for government officials so far. The influence of the Allen family in Virginia politics is a strong card in the Redskins deck.

But the influence of another NFL franchise may keep the Redskins out of Virginia — the Baltimore Ravens.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh revealed their playbook to gain a foothold south in the state several years ago, when he told CSN Baltimore, “We’re trying to take control of this whole area. We’ll take over Washington, D.C., while we’re at it. And head up into Pennsylvania and grab those fans, and over to West Virginia and Virginia.”

Team president Dick Cass told the Washington Post a year later, “What we’re really trying to do is fight for young fans and fight for new people moving into the (Baltimore-Washington) area.”

Well, if the team moves across the Potomac River — particularly to a far-out location like Loudoun County as has been reported — they may as well wave the white flag in Maryland. The Ravens, who have made inroads in Redskins territory in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, would likely become an attractive option for fans in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties.

John Maroon is president of Maroon PR based in Howard County. He has worked for the Redskins and the Baltimore Orioles, and has a good knowledge of both sports markets. He believe a move to Virginia could have long-term implications for the presence of the Redskins in Maryland.

“I don’t believe a move to Virginia will hurt them with their Maryland fan base in the short term but certainly could in the long term,” he said. “Fandom is generally passed down from generation to generation so people who are Skins fans today are most likely that for like. However, kids just being born or just starting to become fans will slide more toward teams that their friends like as the years pass and over the years this will wear down the fan base for them in Maryland.

“Now, that being said, media coverage plays a role as well and the P.G. and Montgomery counties where the Redskins have their largest Maryland fan base will continue to receive primarily D.C. stations and that market will continue to cover the Redskins aggressively in northern Virginia,” he said.

Fans who drive have to travel across the Potomac every day for their business know that it sometimes seems like the Great Wall of China. If the Redskins cross that wall, Baltimore will seem a lot closer.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.


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