by Brian Tinsman

RICHMOND, Va. — FedExField, which once boasted the NFL’s largest seating capacity at 91,704, is now down to 82,000 seats, according to the team’s website and in the 2015 Washington Redskins Yearbook.

“FedExField, the team’s wholly-owned stadium in Landover, Md., boasts seating capacity for 82,000 people, and [Redskins owner Dan] Snyder continues to spearhead efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium,” his biography reads.

This follows an offseason in which “improving fan experience” included removing thousands of seats from the upper deck, the team’s third such endeavor in the last five seasons.

The stadium’s new look was on displayed for the first time during Tuesday night’s Chelsea-Barcelona exhibition soccer game (h/t to Dan Steinberg):

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What a beaut. Barcelona v Chelsea #barca#chelseascum

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When Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (as it was then known) opened in 1997, it had a listed capacity of 80,116. Under Snyder, FedExField was increased to 85,407 in 2000, 86,484 in 2001 and 91,665 in 2004. Between 2011-2014, the team used 85,000 as an official number, which made it the largest standard seating capacity in the NFL (while expandable, Dallas’ AT&T Stadium standard capacity is only 80,000).

But even 85,000–like many numbers associated with Redskins attendance–has been widely disputed over time, even internally. Here is a recap:

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June 2011: 85,000

“One individual associated with the team declined to disclose the precise number of seats being removed, except to say it would be in the thousands. The work will reduce the stadium’s capacity to about 85,000, from its current 91,704 this season.”

July 2011: 82,000

“[Redskins Vice President of Operations Lon] Rosenberg estimated that the capacity of FedEx Field for the 2011 season will be around 82,000 — down from 91,704, which had made it the second-largest capacity in the NFL.”

April 2012: 79,000

Another 4,000 seats will be removed from FedEx Field to accommodate renovations to the stadium’s suite area and complete installation of “party decks” in the upper level. The removal of the seats will lower the stadium’s capacity to roughly 79,000 for Washington Redskins games according an official with the Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources.

October 2014: 85,000

“Just weeks after announcing a deal to install a Wi-Fi network from China’s Huawei Technologies at their 85,000-seat stadium, the Washington Redskins are moving in a different direction.”

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Just as there was reason to question the accuracy of 85,000, there remains reason to doubt the 82,000 capacity.

Under Snyder’s ownership, the team has placed high emphasis on fan numbers, with an oft-criticized consecutive-sellout streak dating back to 1968. But in an era when all sports venues are witnessing declining attendance, reduction is often prudent business. It just seems more personal with the Redskins.

According to the team, Snyder has invested more than $100 million into renovations for FedExField. In addition to removing seats from the upper decks, the Redskins have renovated the suites, replaced the video boards, installed solar panels and high-speed escalators. Between 2011-2012, the team added “party decks,” standing-room only areas that increase attendance but not seating capacity. All of this paid off in 2014 with FedExField attendance nearly 10,000 greater per game than the NFL average (68,776).

Regardless of the publicized number, the Redskins are again playing in a venue with a similar capacity to when it opened in 1997. After years of celebrated expansions and unacknowledged reductions, the team is finally embracing addition to experience through subtraction of seats.

 

Follow Brian Tinsman and 106.7 The Fan.

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