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Washington Football Team seeking support for stadium complex in Northern Virginia

FedEx Field in Landover, Md. (Susan Walsh/AP)

RICHMOND — Washington Football Team officials have been meeting with Virginia legislators to seek support for a plan to build a stadium and vast commercial complex in Northern Virginia, according to five people with knowledge of the effort.

The team wants the General Assembly to pass legislation to convert the state’s existing baseball stadium authority — created in 1995 with hopes of attracting a Major League Baseball team to Virginia — into an entity that could oversee the financing and construction of a new National Football League stadium, according to the five people, all but one of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plan.

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, confirmed that he has met with team representatives about the plan.

“There are a lot of Virginians that are excited that we are still in the running,” Bagby said Friday. “I hope to see some legislation before the General Assembly this session that we can work on in a bipartisan fashion to finally see Virginia get a professional team.”

No legislation has been filed yet, but the team hopes to advance a bill through the General Assembly session that begins Jan. 12, the five people said. The team declined to comment.

While the team has not ruled out potential sites in Maryland or the District, its efforts in Virginia suggests it is intensifying its push to find a new home. The team is contractually obligated to play at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., until 2027, after which it could stay or seek another home. If it moves forward in Virginia, the team seems most interested in building in Loudoun or Prince William counties, three of the people said.

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Owner Daniel Snyder and other team officials have been meeting with legislators in recent weeks to try to drum up support.

The timing of the effort is awkward, with members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee requesting that the NFL turn over the findings of an investigation of alleged sexual harassment in the team’s workplace.

That investigation concluded this year, but the NFL has refused to make public the findings and has yet to provide the committee with the requested documents. Snyder, who pledged to cooperate with an NFL probe of those claims, also has been accused of interfering with the investigation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said Snyder did not interfere.

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But those woes have not spilled over to the stadium plan, which has the potential to create a “mini-city,” one of the five people said.

“So far everyone’s pretty enthusiastic,” that person said.

As part of their pitch to legislators, team officials have shared detailed renderings of a domed stadium anchoring a vast commercial and entertainment complex — offering other sports, concerts and commercial attractions, the five people said. Restaurants, retail, a conference center and hotels would be incorporated into the project, which eventually could include residential developments on the outskirts, two of the five people said.

In that sense, the plan would be in step with the NFL’s newest stadiums, which stand as centerpieces to expansive developments built to make money 365 days a year rather than the 10 days a team plays at home.

The first step in Virginia would be a bill to expand the purview of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority to include oversight of a football facility. Typically under such authorities, officials would create a district and dedicate some or all of the new revenue generated within it — such as from sales or hotel taxes — to construction of the stadium or related infrastructure.

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In 2016, state Sen. Chap ­Petersen (D-Fairfax) drafted a measure to similarly convert the baseball authority into one for football, but he opted not to file the bill, because of time constraints during that legislative session. Petersen, a longtime team booster who opposed the team’s name change, said he was not familiar with the current effort.

This time, the team is reaching out to legislators across the state to try to increase buy-in from beyond Northern Virginia, two of the five people said.

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Nicki Jhabvala and Liz Clarke contributed to this report.

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