The Washington Commanders era officially kicked off Sunday afternoon. A new name, a new uniform, a new fight song — all were originally received with mixed reviews, but what matters most now is the win-loss column.
However, no rebrand could be strong enough to make Washington fans forget about FedEx Field — the stadium with the reputation as one of the worst in the NFL.
“It seems like things are outdated,” said Commanders fan Chuck Scott, a 43-year-old D.C. native, before the game. “You see brand new stadiums built — like L.A. and Atlanta. In comparison, you see what we have, and there’s a little bit of envy.”
The belief that Dan Snyder’s stadium isn’t up to snuff isn’t just hyperbole by some of the team’s most ardent detractors, either. A recent study by USA Today ranked FedEx Field as the worst stadium in the NFL.
“Look, there’s no way around this. FedEx Field is awful,” USA Today editor Caroline Darney wrote.
It’s no surprise that FedEx Field was ranked 30th out of 30 NFL stadiums — especially after a 2021 season that was bookended by two embarrassing incidents. In the season opener, rainwater doused a small group of fans after a pipe burst. Then, immediately following Washington’s final home game of the season, a broken railing sent several Eagles fans crashing into the tunnel, nearly landing on Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts as he exited the field. Hurts later sent a letter to the NFL demanding that actions be taken at FedEx Field after the “near-tragic” accident.
One of those incidents somewhat repeated itself on Sunday, as a leaky pipe on the concourse caused an area to be blocked off by trash cans and construction tape.
Aside from the pipes, other problems with FedEx — like its location and the traffic — also still persist.
“Not only will the stadium actively work against you,” Darney wrote, “you need to drive or train an annoying distance and either walk a further annoying distance or sit in hours of traffic to experience a team that hasn’t made it out of the Wild Card round since 2005.”
FedEx Field wasn’t the stadium that drew the most jeers in Week 1, though. Soldier Field in Chicago, ranked as the 29th worst stadium in the NFL by USA Today, had drainage issues, causing large puddles of rain to pile onto the turf during the Bears’ game against the 49ers.
“Worst field in the NFL,” former Ravens wideout Torrey Smith wrote on Twitter about Soldier Field.
But fans at FedEx Field on Sunday don’t believe the stadium is the reason the fanbase has dwindled in recent years. Last year, the Commanders ranked second-to-last in the NFL in attendance at 52,751 fans per home game. That number was up for the contest against the Jaguars with an announced attendance of 58,192.
In fact, Commanders fan Gabriel Marez, who flew from Arizona to the District for the game, said he’s enjoyed his few experiences at FedEx Field.
“It’s a cool stadium. We live in Arizona, and the stadium out there is no different, other than it being a dome. But, honestly, I’m just trying to see the team win,” said Marez, 28, as he tapped the Commanders logo of the Terry McLaurin jersey on his chest. “I don’t care what the stadium looks like.”
The 2022 season will be pivotal for the Commanders: a new quarterback era, the owner still being investigated by Congress, the coach looking at a put-up or shut-up season.
For Scott, “all is forgiven if the team wins.”
“A winning football team is more important,” Scott said. “Everyone knows about the stadium, but it’s an inside joke, almost. We know it’s messed up, but we don’t care if they just win.”