ASHBURN, Va. — Washington commanders must wait until at least next year to find out if they will receive funding for a new stadium in Virginia.
The Commonwealth General Assembly introduced legislation that would have determined the amount of support offered by Virginia. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw told The Associated Press that too many issues needed to be addressed and also blamed off-field controversies on the franchise.
However, he told the AP, they could vote next year. The move was expected.
“The vote was cast because there was no support for the stadium for a multitude of reasons,” said Sen. Chap Petersen, a Democrat who was a longtime fan of the franchise. He also said recently that after initially supporting the stadium he would have voted ‘no’. “For some people there are systemic issues. I don’t believe the team has the kind of community support that I would expect from a major professional sports franchise and then all the issues with the owner.”
In a statement, the commanders said they supported the decision to postpone the vote and consider the situation further because of the “complexity of this undertaking, coupled with the remarkable opportunity for economic development that we believe represents our new site project”.
The Commanders also said they “look forward to continued engagement and open dialogue with stakeholders across the Commonwealth to share our vision and hear directly from communities about their economic development goals and how we can be a partner in trustworthy and reliable to achieve these results”.
Washington recently bought 200 acres of land in Woodbridge, Va., with the option of opting out – if he doesn’t get help from the state and Prince William County. Commanders want to build a 55,000-seat domed stadium along with an outdoor amphitheater that can hold around 15,000 to 20,000 people along with high-end shops, restaurants, bars and residences. They would also move their practice facility to the site. The project would cost around $3 billion.
The commanders have also attempted to purchase land near their current facility in Loudoun County and may still do so.
They own the stadium and land at their current stadium in Landover, Maryland, where they have played since 1997. Their deal with Prince George’s County expires in September 2026, but it can be renewed. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state would issue bonds of up to $400 million to build the area around the current stadium, but would not help pay for the stadium.
The Commanders wanted to move to their old home at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but it’s land owned by the federal government, and there’s a disagreement between the D.C. City Council and the Mayor’s office over how to use this land – if Congress would allow them to buy this.
In February, the Virginia Senate approved his bill – sponsored by Saslaw – by a vote of 32 to 8. The House passed his version by a vote of 62 to 37.
Washington’s many off-court controversies didn’t help. Congress continues to investigate the team and owner Dan Snyder in particular. Congress has invited Snyder to testify at a June 22 hearing, though he has not yet said whether he will attend. Congress also sent a 25-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission alleging financial improprieties by the team under Snyder. The commanders responded with a 105-page letter to the FTC explaining why they are innocent. Attorneys General in Virginia and Washington, DC are investigating the financial claims.
Washington’s defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio made headlines on Wednesday while discussing his tweet in which he wondered why there wasn’t so much energy devoted to “rioters and looters” at the summer of 2020 than the January 6 insurrection on the United States Capitol. During his explanation, he referred to the January 6 event as “dust”, for which he later apologized.
Some senators tweeted Wednesday that his comments were unhelpful. Meanwhile, on Thursday, NAACP President Derrick Johnson called on Del Rio to “resign or be fired” over his comments.
“It’s time for Jack Del Rio to resign or be fired. His comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant,” Johnson said in a statement. “The January 6 insurrection – an attempted coup – was far from ‘dust’. Every day we learn more and more how close our democracy has come to autocracy. Minimize the insurgency by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted. You can’t coach a majority black team while turning your back on the black community. It’s time for you to pack your bags and leave the field.
But the stadium bill had lost support before Del Rio said anything. Other problems exist.
Sen. Scott Surovell, who tweeted Wednesday that Del Rio’s comments would eventually delay the vote, represents the site for the desired location. He said that with 140 members, there is no single problem.
“They need more time to rework the project,” Surovell said. “They have to deal with a lot of issues, mostly about transportation. They’re proposing to put the project in the worst bottleneck on the East Coast, and if you’re going to have a lot of people, you have to have a way to get in and out the people.
“Hopefully after six months we can get better clarity on some of these issues that have come up – the various allegations and being looked at by different bodies.”
Senator Bryce Reeves, a Republican, also tweeted his opposition to the bill on Wednesday: “The Washington Commanders Stadium deal should have been dead from the start. I voted no on it in January. Dan Snyder doesn’t need our tax subsidies and government-funded stadiums have proven to be profiting to the wealthy and not to the average hard-working Virginian.”