- - Thursday, September 8, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

This week, as the Washington Redskins prepare for their season opener Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field, the fight to host Monday night and other Redskins games in the future officially kicked off with battle lines drawn.

On Wednesday, on the steps of the Prince Georges County Government Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., County Executive Rushern Baker and other officials declared it “Redskins Kickoff Week” with a press conference and a pep rally.

Saturday, 60 miles away, another pep rally will be hold — at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Va., with team president Bruce Allen, the architect of the team’s Virginia government-backed training facility in Richmond, on hand to kick off the 2016 season.

Dueling rallies, representing two very different futures for a new Washington Redskins stadium.

And the District? Silent.

Ironically, in the Super Bowl days of this franchise, they used to hold rallies like this in the city, in places like Farragut Square, near a Metro stop.

Alas, these are not the Super Bowl days for this franchise — nor for Metro, for that matter.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has been telling anyone and everyone lately that the state is ready to get in the stadium business with the Redskins — though no details have been revealed as to how that will financially happen.

“I view this as a Virginia team,” the governor said on ESPN 980 last month during a visit to the team’s Richmond training camp — the same facility that has cost the city of Richmond hundreds of thousands of dollars in overruns. “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your (practice) facilities. … We’re in very serious negotiations, as I assume other jurisdictions are. Listen, we would love to have them.”

Prince Georges officials fired back this week with a government-backed rally, where Baker thanked Redskins owner Daniel Snyder — who was not in attendance — and the Redskins organization for “not just having the team play in Prince George’s County, but being good corporate citizens, being a part of this community, giving back.

“I know I’m excited like many of you,” Baker said. “It was a great season last season, but I’m looking to go deeper in the playoffs and more importantly, I’m looking for them to play those playoff games right here in Prince George’s County.”

Baker should have thanked the late Jack Kent Cooke for having the team play in Landover. It was his decision, after failing to make a deal with the District and the failure of other sites in Arlington and Laurel, to buy a do-it-yourself football stadium kit at Home Depot and build what was first known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium — in then historic Raljon — and is now called FedEx Field.

But the countdown to the stadium demotion has begun. It opened in 1997, and is in the final decade of a 30-year lease it signed with government officials, who provided the infrastructure for the stadium, and the Redskins are in the hunt for a new home.

Prince Georges officials want to make sure they don’t go far. “The region comes to Prince Georges County for game day,” county communications director Barry Hudson said to open the Wednesday rally.

Not heard from yet in this battle has been Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

The Redskins headquarters, though, is in Ashburn, just a few miles away from the site of Saturday night’s rally — the development known as One Loudoun.

“We are thrilled to host the Redskins Rally this year at One Loudoun,” said Julie Minor Dillon, One Loudoun’s vice president of marketing, in a statement released by the team. “We look forward to being a part of the celebration and teaming with the Redskins and Hail & Hog Kitchen and Tap (the new Redskins-themed restaurant) to make this a great event for the fans.”

McAuliffe may be right about the Redskins fan base and operations located in Virginia, but if the team leaves Maryland, it risks losing the fan base in suburban Maryland counties to the Baltimore Ravens, who have made it clear they want to grow their fan base closer and closer to Washington.

The District? Ironically, the team will be giving out burgundy and gold rally towels for Monday night’s home opener against the Steelers, to battle Pittsburgh fans and their “Terrible Towels.”

But those towels won’t have “Fight for Old PG” on them, or “Fight for old Loudoun” on them. They’ll have “Fight for old DC” — the lyrics of the Redskins song — on them.

It could be the District’s flag of surrender in this stadium battle.

 

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