SNIDER: Will United Stadium Deal Lure Redskins to RFK?

by Rick Snider

Can one stadium deal lead the Washington Redskins back to the city?

D.C. United and the District government finally came to a real agreement – not a sorta-kinda deal that has been up and down for more two years – for a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point provided the city acquires land rights by September. Otherwise, it’s back to the same old dance that saw United use Loudoun County as a negotiating chip.

That would be the same Loudoun County where Virginia lawmakers want the next Redskins stadium built. The team has trained in Loudoun County since 1992 in an aging facility that is amid another renovation while the few remaining trees around the once isolated facility are being removed for a nearby road.

But, the scoreboard now reads Washington 1, Loudoun 0 in stadium deals. Maybe the United offer was a test drive for Virginia politicians readying for a Redskins stadium. They kicked a few tires to see how the process works.

It was huge for city leaders to show they can make a stadium deal without late councilman and mayor-for-life Marion Barry. The Redskins left Washington in 1997 while Barry was not in office. Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke didn’t like Barry’s successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, and left for Maryland. When Barry returned to political life as a councilman, he was the key stadium vote in securing the Washington Nationals from Montreal.

Redskins stadium talks are in the early stages that should fire up intensely over the next few years. It’s never too soon to decide where the Redskins will move in 2027 when leaving FedEx Field. Landover was literally Plan D after deals in Washington, Potomac Yard and Laurel fell through. Cooke was forced to build on a former dairy farm, within sight of the beltway, but hard to reach without a vehicle. TSA wouldn’t allow busses after 9/11, and Metro only eventually came within one mile.

Many fans want to return to the RFK site. Owner Dan Snyder’s first preference is the RFK site, even saying the new stadium would be like RFK. Translation: smaller than FedEx that is often quite empty.

RFK was a magical time for the Redskins from the 1970s through 1991 when the last of three championship seasons saw temporary stands swaying under cheering fans.

Today, RFK is an old barn, the first of the multi-purpose stadiums of the 1960s that have all since closed except the original one with the curved semi-dome that kept the noise and hot, humid air tucked inside. RFK has always had charm because the team won titles, even if it now smells like wet dog on rainy days.

Maryland and Virginia will bid against Washington for the next Redskins stadium scheduled for 2027, though possibly earlier given the right deal. But, Washington is up first. The Redskins stadium will probably cost $2 billion, even if located on federal land that would be leased, not sold. That’s a hefty price, but sealing a deal with United shows city leaders can do it.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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