Turns out obstructed views aren't the only problem with those new seats at FedEx Field.
Members of the Prince George's County Council say the 5,181 new seats should not have been added without their approval.
The council, which makes land use policy for Prince George's, said the county's Department of Environmental Resources should not have granted the Washington Redskins permission to increase seating capacity at FedEx Field to 91,665 -- the most of any NFL team -- without a hearing to discuss the impact those additional seats would have on parking. The team opens its regular season at home tomorrow against Tampa Bay.
"It should have come before us for discussion before it happened," said council Chairman Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills). The council said the team should have filed a new site plan for such a project.
Knotts said that he's not sure how the issue will be resolved but that the council will discuss it, possibly as early as next week.
"We can't take the seats out," he said. "What we want to do is put a close to the situation that allowed this to happen."
On March 2, the Environmental Resources Department gave the Redskins the go-ahead to add 4,381 seats. In July, it approved installation of 800 more.
Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) said it was "unclear" what remedy is available to the council and has asked council staff to evaluate the options. A lawsuit, he said, may be fruitless.
"It just may be counterproductive to get into a fight with the Redskins," he said.
Aides to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said this week that the council's objections are without merit. Alfonso N. Cornish, deputy chief administrative officer for government operations and environmental services, said the county followed proper procedure. Council approval is needed only when construction takes place outside the stadium, he said.
Cornish also said the county followed the same procedure it has used in the past when Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder has sought to expand stadium seating. As for parking, Cornish said, the Redskins have "more than enough parking to accommodate the expansion."
Ralph Grutzmacher, an attorney for the council, said parking is a zoning matter under the province of the council. Zoning regulations require the Redskins to have one parking space for every four seats in the stadium.
"Their obligation is to have 4 to 1 parking on-site, and they don't have that," Grutzmacher said.
Karl Swanson, a spokesman for the Redskins, said he wasn't familiar with the details of FedEx's parking capacity.
Although the team apparently failed to file an amended site plan, it did supply the council with tickets to two preseason games, Knotts said. None was offered to the council during last year's preseason. Knotts said he distributed the tickets to council members but does not know who attended the games.
Meanwhile, some Redskins fans said they are angry and feel duped for buying the "limited view" seats that were part of the team's $23 million expansion.
A giant concrete-and-steel pillar blocked Rob Thorne's view of the Washington Redskins' first play from scrimmage, an end around to wide receiver Rod Gardner, at last week's 27-0 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Thorne couldn't see the next play either -- a completed pass to tight end Chris Cooley -- thanks to the pillar. A few plays later, when the Redskins pushed into the end zone for the team's first touchdown of the game, Thorne's $69 seat finally afforded him a clear view of the action without any obstruction and without a need to watch the play on the television hanging above.
"About 20 yards of the middle of the field is blocked because of the pillar," said a clearly exasperated Thorne, whose family has been going to Redskins games for 50 years. "This is frustrating."
"If they cared about their fans, they wouldn't ask them to sit behind a pillar," said Joe Moore, 34, a partner in a Gaithersburg law firm. "I'm surprised they put all those seats in. The seats are so bad that I'm embarrassed to take clients because you feel stupid and like you did it on the cheap. I felt I was in a bomb shelter and not at a football game."
The Redskins said they do not sell the two seats directly behind each pillar.
Moore, who said he has been moved to slightly better seats, shelled out several thousand dollars for four memberships in the Redskins TailGate Club, which enabled him to purchase season tickets to four lower-bowl seats priced at $69 per game and located deep under an overhang.
Swanson said anyone unhappy with their seats should contact the team. "Any of our fans in the stadium who have something they would like, something to check on, moving their seats, upgrading or anything related to their tickets should call our ticket office," he said.
FedEx Field is the heart of Snyder's strategy to establish the team as the wealthiest in professional sports. Despite a lack of success on the field, the Redskins are one of the top revenue generators in the league and are valued by Forbes magazine at $1.1 billion, the most of any U.S. professional sports team.
Since buying the team in 1999, Snyder has squeezed 12,000 extra seats into the stadium. This includes ringing the playing field with more than 1,100 "dream seats," pushing out the balconies on the premium loge level to add 500 seats, adding elite "owners' level" luxury suites and expanding the total number of luxury suites to about 240 from the original 199.
Snyder has covered entrance tunnels and filled in virtually every nook and cranny where a seat would fit. And now he has pushed 4,000 of the new seats into an overhang area on the lower level, many seats of which are located behind pillars or situated so far up under the overhang that fans can't see the scoreboard or the arcs of punts and passes.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson shows off some of the 5,181 new seats at FedEx Field. Others are less enthusiastic about the seats, however, including the Prince George's County Council, which says the seats shouldn't have been added without its approval.