Image by Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Marasky.

Official plans for a new football stadium to replace FedEx Field are still a decade away, but recently a bipartisan group of legislators from Maryland, Virginia, and DC have introduced legislation that would prevent the three regions from engaging in a bidding war using public money.

Tell your legislators today to support this pact! Our region needs more regional cooperation, and competing with each other in a race to the bottom to attract the new football stadium is exactly the wrong direction to go.

Cooperation, not competition is in the region’s best interest

Dan Snyder and the Washington Football Team have been making noise for several years about the desire for a new football stadium. The current FedEx Field was completed in 1997.

It’s in Snyder’s interest to have jurisdictions give him incentives and pay for as much of the expensive new stadium as possible. The Washington Football Team’s fanbase is in two states and a district, meaning there are lots of jurisdictions who can bid against each other to give Snyder as generous of a package as possible.

FedEx Field. Image by Fred King used with permission.

Top leaders in all three areas have already expressed interest in helping the team relocate. However another group of legislators in the District, Maryland and Virginia are proposing parallel legislation to bar public spending on incentives for a new stadium, essentially forming a pact between the three that they will not get sucked into race-to-the-bottom bidding war.

David Moon (D, District-20), one of the sponsors of the Maryland bill, told me “now is the time for regional cooperation. We’re beginning to see this on other issues, like dedicated metro funding.” He’s right: our region should be cooperating more, and fighting each other to craft the sweetest public money deal for a new stadium is a bad move.

Many football stadiums are a bad deal and don’t support urbanism

Football stadiums are usually a bad deal for the city or county providing them. The reality is that American football stadiums are some of the least valuable stadiums of any major sport in the world.

NFL teams play just eight home games a year. Their stadiums are often surrounded by seas of parking, deadening the surrounding area. Fans at such stadiums show up prior to games to tailgate out of their cars in parking lots, rather than frequent restaurants, bars and pubs.

Washington football fans. Image by Brian Allen used with permission.

Compare this to other sports. While there is debate as to just how much the Nationals Park helped revitalize that area of DC, it is has definitely helped support local businesses nearby. People flock to bars and restaurants before and after baseball games (and there are 81 home games!). The same can be said of Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center), which has helped bring fans to local businesses and is well integrated into the community that surrounds it.

The inevitable bidding war in our region would be bad for the winner

Stadium deals aren’t always bad, but in this particular case with three nearby regions competing, it’s more likely the winning deal would be a bad one for the winner. With two states and a district all forming one region, the DC metro area has the unique ability to bid against itself in a way that most metro areas do not.

A smaller market might fear that their NFL team would move without public incentives, but that's not a realistic risk for the DC area. The DC metro area is the sixth largest in the country and the second wealthiest. The threat of moving to LA is also neutralized now that two teams are there.

Ultimately each jurisdiction would compete with each other to offer the most public benefits, making an already questionable deal worse. The trio of bills in front of each separate legislature would prevent this from happening. Use the form below to contact your legislators and ask them to support these parallel bills.

Click to email your legislators!

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David Whitehead is the Housing Program Organizer at Greater Greater Washington.  A former high school math teacher and a community organizer, David works to broaden and deepen Greater Greater Washington’s efforts to make the region more livable and inclusive through education, advocacy and organizing. He lives in Edgewood.