Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) last week publicly turned up the heat on his efforts to convince Dan Snyder to build his next Redskins stadium in Virginia, causing a media flurry. If he is successful, it is increasingly clear that Loudoun County will be targeted as the prime location south of the Potomac.
Asked to comment on that prospect last week, Loudoun Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) was non-committal, describing the inquiry as “a little premature.” At the first county board meeting after the fuss, Randall said “there was literally a 45-second discussion of the Redskins and every single newspaper picked up on it.”
Other county officials say they’re open to a Redskins stadium in Loudoun—if the deal is right.
“At this point, I don’t think that anybody knows enough to really talk about whether it makes sense or not, or whether or not it’s a good deal for Loudoun,” said Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer. “I think that’s really what our first step is. We don’t know what the deal is.”
Rizer said his office, the frontline of deals like a major corporation moving into the county or a possible stadium, doesn’t talk publicly about any project it’s actively working on. But he did say his staff have talked in generalities.
“Right now, we’re just in the very early stages of trying to see what the deal would be,” Rizer said.
The deal, if any, would probably not just be a stadium. Rizer and county supervisors have said it would have to be part of a larger development, and that they don’t see much appetite for spending a lot of taxpayer money on a stadium.
“It has to be the perfect deal, and I think the Redskins, if they had their pick of locations—I don’t think they would choose to locate this far outside the city,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). “But I still think that there are certainly advantages to them looking into Loudoun.”
The Redskins have reportedly hired an architecture firm, a good sign they plan to leave FedEx Field in Landover, MD, when the lease is up in 2027 or even earlier. Snyder has talked about building a new stadium since at least 2014, promising it would have the feel of the Redskins’ former home, RFK stadium in Washington, DC.
Meyer’s district includes the most likely sites for a Loudoun stadium, on undeveloped land north of Dulles Airport near the Silver Line’s Loudoun Gateway Metro stop. Talk of building a professional sports stadium in that area isn’t new. In 1988, a group of investors pitched a plan for a complex that would include a domed football-baseball stadium, hotels and 500 condos. Then-Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke didn’t go for that proposal, opting to build what became FedEx Field in Maryland. He did, however, invest in Loudoun by moving the team’s Redskins Park headquarters from Herndon to Ashburn a few years later. That training facility also is due for a round of modernization, making it a likely part of any new stadium deal.
The 1988 Loudoun stadium plan was estimated to cost $770 million; the NFL’s most recent stadium project, the LA Rams’ City of Champions Stadium complex is expected to cost $2.5 billion. The Dallas Cowboys opened a new headquarters/training center this month, built at a cost of $1.5 billion. Loudoun also was under consideration as a location for a Major League Baseball stadium in the early 2000s when the regional was working to land a franchise. The Expos instead moved to DC—which also is an option in play for the Redskins.
During a meeting of regional leaders in McLean last week, there was support for having the Redskins move to Northern Virginia, but there also was apparent agreement that Loudoun County was the only jurisdiction likely to be seriously considered.
Meyer said many stadium deals face public backlash when politicians commit too much taxpayer assistance or approve unwise developments. On the other hand, he said, Loudouners should keep an open mind and make a “sober decision, instead of one based on presupposition.”
“There’s no doubt that we have good relations with the Redskins organization as a county, which puts us in a good spot for this,” Meyer said. “But really what it’s going to come down to fundamentally is numbers, and I don’t think there’s an appetite for a lot of taxpayer funding going to an NFL stadium.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) agreed.
“It’s not hard to imagine that under the right circumstances, that a development that has a stadium and other pieces to it could end up generating a lot of tax revenue for the county, so it just depends on what the ask is in terms of providing any kind of assistance,” Letourneau said. He also pointed out the county doesn’t get a say unless the Redskins first reach an agreement with a landowner.
“Right now, ultimately this discussion is between a private entity, the Redskins, and private landowners,” Letourneau said. “I think in a lot of the coverage of this, because the government has been commenting, it kind of gets lost that that is the first thing that needs to happen. The county doesn’t control any of this land that we’re talking about.”
He also said any deal would have to go through Loudoun’s “time-tested return-on-investment process.”
“With their operations being here, their expanded headquarters being here, the new restaurant being here, all of that makes sense when you start to roll it in, but what does it mean for a stadium?” Rizer said. “That’s going to come down to a business decision for the Redskins, and a business decision for the community that goes for it and lands it. It’s a business deal, and I think that right now, no one knows what that business deal looks like.”