Friday, January 12, 2007

Washington Redskins officials yesterday insisted the team will continue to play at FedEx Field for at least the next 20 years and said they have had no discussions with the District of Columbia about a move back into the city.

Team general counsel Dave Donovan said the Redskins are legally bound to FedEx Field until 2027 because of agreement between the team, the state of Maryland and Prince George’s County, and said the team has expressed no interest in leaving the Landover facility at least until then.

“We don’t want to leave,” Donovan said. “We’re really happy and don’t have any other options because we’re bound to the lease. It was written in a way to make sure that we play football there for 30 years.”

FedEx Field was built in 1997 by then-owner Jack Kent Cooke, who financed most of the construction using his own money, though the state contributed $70 million for infrastructure improvements. Daniel Snyder bought the team and the stadium in 1999 for a record $800 million.

The stadium is the largest in the NFL with a capacity of more than 90,000, and has been lucrative for the team, but fans have often complained of its suburban location and lack of intimacy.

Members of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and Greater Washington Sports Alliance, as well as some members of the D.C. Council, have indicated a desire to bring the Redskins back to the District, and said the team could play at a new facility at the site currently occupied by RFK Stadium. Officials said they will be looking for a new use for the RFK site as soon as 2009, after D.C. United and the Washington Nationals have moved into new facilities.

But according to the Redskins, no team official has ever been contacted by the city regarding a move back to the District.

“The bottom line is, the team has not had any communications, formal or informal, direct or indirect, or even through an intermediary,” Donovan said. “No one knows of anything.”

Donovan said the team could explore relocating to the District after 2027, but he said discussions about such a move would be unlikely to occur for another 10 years, if at all.

The city does not own the land at RFK, but controls it for free under a lease with the federal government. Under the terms of the lease, the city must use the land for entertainment or recreational purposes, city officials said.

Some early proposals call for the city to demolish RFK and offer the land at no cost, with Snyder building a new stadium using the proceeds of the sale of land at FedEx Field, which is considered very valuable. City officials have suggested the new stadium would have a retractable roof, which would allow the city to hold a Super Bowl, and some proponents said the new stadium could be part of a plan to play host to the Olympic Games.

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