Snider: McAuliffe in Hurry to Ink Redskins Stadium Deal

by Rick Snider

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is on the clock and the Washington Redskins’ timetable for a new stadium may suddenly accelerate.

McAuliffe enters the final year as Virginia’s top lawmaker. He believes bringing a future Redskins stadium to Virginia in 2027 when its Landover, Md. lease ends would ensure his legacy as not just another state house leader. McAuliffe made a big move on the Redskins last summer, but the team wasn’t ready to make a deal. Besides, any agreement needs to come after intense bidding between Maryland, Washington and Virginia leaders to ensure the best deal for the team.

But McAuliffe is in a hurry and suddenly a land parcel that may be more agreeable than far-flung Loudoun County may tilt the odds towards the Old Dominion. The Washington Business Journal reports the final piece of 51-acre Landmark Mall inside the beltway and near I-395 has been sold to the Howard Hughes Corp. and tenants must vacate by Jan. 31.

Hughes has spent years on a redevelopment plan for the Alexandria property with approval three years ago for an open village concept. But, the Journal reports Hughes has no timeline for redevelopment.

Enter the rainmaker — McAuliffe.

If the governor truly wants to lure the Redskins to Virginia for the first time and not fail like predecessor Doug Wilder in 1992 after striking a deal for nearby Potomac Yards, then McAuliffe would be smart to forget pitching a stadium on the Dulles International Airport’s flight path and opt for an urban setting.

It’s not too soon to start serious talks. Late owner Jack Kent Cooke needed nine years from announcement to the stadium’s 1997 opening. FedEx’s lease reverts to Prince George’s County in 2027 under a deal by Cooke so Snyder needs to begin direct talks. The team already has tentative design plans.

Meanwhile, Washington leaders have also created several options for the RFK Stadium site with the Redskins getting first choice. Maryland’s best option may be at the Gaylord properties by the Woodrow Wilson Bridge which recently included the opening of the MGM National Harbor Resort and Casino.

Landmark and Gaylord don’t have needed nearby metro stations. RFK has one active and one dormant station while Loudoun would have the Silver Line currently being built. Yet, stadium negotiations are about more than property. They’re about redeveloping an area like other NFL stadiums now include and building a Metro stop would certainly be one of the negotiating points.

If Snyder truly wants hotly-contested bidding between three jurisdictions, he needs to start now. The District is ready to move on to Plan B and Landmark is already earmarked for other development, though McAuliffe might influence those plans. Building a stadium may only require three years, but fighting inevitable court challenges over sites and legislative trials that forced Cooke to move his proposed site three times means Snyder’s timetable for a deal should be over the next year. And, that fits McAuliffe’s schedule, too.

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

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