D.C. Council Member Jack Evans says Redskins name shouldn’t be roadblock to a Washington stadium


(By Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As soon as Dan Snyder told Comcast SportsNet that he is already in the process of designing a new stadium with hints of ol’ RFK, fans and media members started speculating about the actual RFK Stadium site as a potential home. And as soon as fans and media members started doing that, they ran into the question of whether the team’s name would be an impediment to a return to Washington.

For one D.C. council member, at least, the answer is no.

“No, it’s not for me,” Jack Evans told ESPN 980 on Thursday, when asked if the Redskins name could be a deal-breaker. “And what I want to say is this: Dan Snyder himself, the name of the team, should not be issues that are relevant to the relocation of the team to the city, and the construction of a new stadium. Many years ago, almost 20 years ago, we went through this with Jack Kent Cooke. He had a difficult personality, and the personalities became involved in where the stadium was going to be, and we ended up losing it. He’s long gone, and we don’t have the team.

“So my admonition to everyone is don’t focus on that stuff,” Evans said. “That will work its way out. Focus on the long-term, generational aspect of having the Washington football team located in the District of Columbia at the RFK site. Whatever it’s called, whoever owns it is not relevant, because that will change over time.”

It goes without saying that Evans — a prominent booster for the return of baseball to D.C., and a long-time proponent of a Redskins return — wants that stadium in Washington.

“Absolutely, we want it back on the RFK site,” he said. “We have tried the FedEx Experience, and it has failed. And it failed not because the stadium is kind of an antiquated stadium, but the ability to get there and get home is a disaster. It’s an all-day experience. And if you were to relocate it in Maryland and certainly in Virginia, you’re buying into the same problems. Can you imagine a stadium somewhere like in Loudoun County? How would you get there? How would you get back?”

Evans then talked about the Yankees’ visit to RFK Stadium in 2006; three straight games all drew at least 44,000 people.

“We had almost [45,000] people in that stadium, got them in and out in 45 minutes,” he said. “You have the access roads, you have Metro on site, you have 10,000 parking spaces. So we know how to do this, and there is no better site in the metropolitan region for a football stadium.”

Evans said Verizon Center and Nats Park show that “the economic generators” for a neighborhood that could use a boost “would be tremendous, and frankly the civic pride of having the Washington football team back in the city I think is enormous. So I’m excited about this.”

Evans also said that in his ideal world, the Redskins could be playing football games on the RFK site as soon as the 2019 season. ESPN 980’s Kevin Sheehan asked if that were a realistic goal.

“It depends on what the organization wants to do,” Evans said. “If they’re serious about pursuing this, I think you could get this done in five years, yes. I’ll add this to the discussion: I was one of the leaders on baseball, and I have to say it was a very very acrimonious, as you remember, discussion and project to get done.

“When I traveled around the city, as I did recently when I ran for mayor, the Redskins, it’s a different deal,” Evans went on. “People love the football team. People want the football team back in the city. So I wouldn’t be dealing with that same acrimony or indifference to the baseball team. It’s a different mindset, and I think you guys know that. I mean, for all the winningness of the Wizards, Capitals and Nationals — and I love it — there’s still a very soft place in peoples hearts for the football team.”

More of his thoughts.

On financing: “The way I would approach the financing of the football stadium is we the city — like we’re doing with the soccer stadium — we would clear the land. We would tear down RFK Stadium and clear out whatever else is there that would impact on the construction of a brand-new stadium. The Redskins organization and the National Football League would be responsible for paying for the new stadium, and I think that would be an excellent deal on both sides. … They’d pay for the stadium, we’d pay for the land, and we’d get the deal done.”

On Maryland or Virginia offering public funding: “I can’t imagine that happening. The commonwealth of Virginia and the state of Maryland are in difficult financial means right now. … And so I don’t know the citizens of those jurisdictions would support using public financing to construct a stadium. When we did the Nationals, that was a unique situation that I don’t know could be replicated. … In today’s world, you really have the league and the owner paying for the stadium — like in soccer — and the city and jurisdiction paying for the infrastructure.”

On tying the stadium to the Olympics: “I think it’s too long a road, although it may end up being that way. The team has a lease in [Prince George’s County] that goes ’til 2026. The Olympic bid is for the Olympics in 2024. So there is a synergy there; if Washington D.C. were awarded the Olympics you could construct the Olympic stadium there, use it in 2024 and then the football team would move in in 2026. I would rather see this done a lot sooner than that. I’d like to see a five-year timeline, that the team would be playing at the RFK site in 2019, not 2026. But those details would have to be worked out with the county and the state, as to how you can get out of that lease, if you can, and what the prospects are. But I would say if you started today it’d probably take about three or four years, between the time you cleared the land and construct a new stadium and move in, before you could start play there.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.

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Dan Steinberg · August 28, 2014