Maryland Delegate Proposes Regional Pact To Keep Taxpayer Money from Financing Redskins’ Stadium
Bills being introduced in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia legislatures to approve agreement
FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland
Bernard Gagnon, Creative Commons
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder could have another impediment to finding a new stadium site if bills in the Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia legislatures are approved: no public financing.
Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park) announced Wednesday he is introducing a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would create a compact between D.C. and Virginia in which the jurisdictions agree not to provide public financing or incentives for a new Redskins stadium.
Moon said legislators in the other jurisdictions are introducing similar bills to create the compact. In Virginia, Republican Del. Michael Webert has introduced a compact bill. In D.C., independent council member David Grosso is sponsoring a bill.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment about the potential compact.
This is the first time all three jurisdictions have had bills to try to approve the compact. Moon said Wednesday he introduced a similar bill in last year’s General Assembly, but couldn’t find a sponsor in time to introduce it in the Virginia Legislature before the state’s bill introduction deadline.
“This time, we’re back with bills in all three governments,” Moon said.
The compact is an attempt to prevent a bidding war between the governments, he said. Moon said there have been murmurs about Virginia and D.C. trying to entice the Redskins to leave Landover, where the team plays at FedEx Field.
“As we’ve seen in almost every other place where this happens, neighboring states or jurisdictions end up in a race to the bottom in a bidding war against each other,” Moon said. “There’s a good deal of literature out there about what a bad deal stadiums are for taxpayers.”
He said he’s not aware of another compact being drawn up between neighboring jurisdictions to prevent them from using public resources on a sports team.
Grosso said in a statement he’s excited to work with Moon and Webert on the compact.
“NFL stadiums do not produce the promised economic benefits that merit public investment, especially at a time when that funding could be better used for education or human services in the District of Columbia.”
The Redskins front office has indicated it aims to move out of FedEx Field, which opened in 1997, and into a new stadium by the time its lease at FedEx ends in 2027. The team’s leaders have said they’d like to find a more urban location than the current Landover site, which is often derided for its driver-centric layout.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe met privately with Snyder last year. McAuliffe encouraged the team to move to the state and build a retail and shopping center around a new stadium that could be financed by private developers rather than taxpayers.
During the Virginia gubernatorial campaign last year, current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he would continue McAuliffe’s push to attract the Redskins, but opposed using public subsidies to entice the team.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has expressed interest in locating the team in D.C., perhaps on a redeveloped RFK Stadium site, but she also has called on Snyder to change the team’s name, which he has refused to do.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in October 2016 the state would “do whatever it takes” to keep the Redskins in Maryland.
A Hogan spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday about what the governor thinks about the compact proposal.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, a Democratic candidate for governor, has pitched National Harbor, the site of the MGM Casino and other attractions, as a potential location for a new stadium. However, he told The Washington Business Journal that he’s not interested in going “over the balance sheet” to make it happen.
There has been a backlash in recent years against public subsidies for NFL stadiums. San Diego voters struck down a proposal to raise taxes to help subsidize a new stadium for the Chargers before the team left for Los Angeles.
The Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles, as well, despite the city and Missouri giving the team $280 million in taxpayer subsidies to build the Edward Jones Dome in 1995. When the Rams left St. Louis in 2016, taxpayers were left with $144 million in debt and maintenance costs for the stadium.
Moon said public financing of stadiums is a “terrible deal for the taxpayers of Maryland.”
If a government agrees to provide taxpayer funds to the Redskins, it would be for a team that has made the playoffs five times in the 19 seasons Snyder has owned the team and never advanced past the divisional round.
“It’s certainly going to be the case that there are those that look at the team’s performance, the team’s name and their personal feelings about the team’s owner and not want to throw public dollars at a new stadium,” Moon said. “But I think those are secondary concerns compared to this being a bad deal for taxpayers.”