Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration and a state senator have been trying to drum up support in Richmond for legislation to facilitate building a new stadium for the Washington Redskins, but they have decided not to submit a bill this year.
Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax) drafted a measure to establish a stadium authority that would oversee the financing and construction of a new facility.
The proposal would have expanded the purview of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, created in 1995 to lure a Major League Baseball team to the commonwealth, for the construction of a new NFL stadium, presumably in Northern Virginia.
The Redskins play at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on a lease that expires in 2027. The team recently hired an architect to design a future home and hired a lobbying firm to build support in Richmond for a new stadium.
As recently as last week, Petersen and administration officials discussed submitting the bill this year.
But Petersen said Monday that “there’s a bunch of moving parts and there’s no time pressure,” since there are years remaining on the team’s lease.
“I don’t want Virginia to be caught at the starting gate if other localities are talking to the Redskins,” Petersen said. “By the same token, it’s my instinct that the team is not on the verge of signing a deal with either Maryland or D.C. We’ve got so much going on this session.
“It was not going to be possible to put something together on the fly.”
Luring the Redskins would be a major legacy item for McAuliffe (D).
But the administration’s policy advisers have raised concerns that submitting a proposal this year would be premature, according to two people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
If the bill failed, they said, it could send a message to the team that the lawmakers who would eventually be asked to help bankroll a stadium are not interested in doing so.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy declined to comment on the specific proposal but said the administration “is actively pursuing this deal, as we do every major economic development project.”
“We are working to provide the most competitive environment we can to the team,” Coy said. “We have been doing every bit of due diligence . . . to make sure that this would be of economic benefit to our commonwealth.”
McAuliffe and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, the governor’s lead negotiator with the Redskins, have considered other sports-venue deals in the past, including a soccer stadium for D.C. United and a Washington Wizards practice facility. But the soccer team ultimately decided to stay in the District, and Virginia officials concluded the basketball facility wouldn’t make economic sense.
Expanding the purview of the baseball stadium authority, which has its own borrowing capability, would lay the groundwork for the commonwealth to help finance future sports facilities more quickly.
McAuliffe has an easier relationship with the Redskins than D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who says she wants the team back in the District. He uses the team name (she considers it offensive), and Virginia already is home to the team’s offices and training facility. Metro is scheduled to open three new stations in Loudoun County in 2020, which would make some potential building sites more accessible to fans.
But Virginia’s early overtures to the Redskins have been rocky.
Jones got into political hot water by accepting a free ticket to a home playoff game last month.
Although he had cleared the gift ahead of time with a state ethics council staffer, his attendance prompted some legislators to question whether McAuliffe had abandoned his pledge to cap gifts to administration officials at $100. State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) demanded to know the names of other administration officials who attended the game. McAuliffe’s office has not released the names.
Other members of the General Assembly have raised questions about whether the team is meeting its obligations to the state tied to $4 million in state subsidies the Redskins received for the training center in Richmond, which has not met financial projections.
Petersen, who two years ago formed a Redskins Pride Caucus with then-Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun) and Del. Jackson Miller (R-Manassas), said reconfiguring the baseball stadium authority didn’t obligate the state but would prepare it to make a serious bid.
“To be blunt, it’s probably going to be several years down the road — maybe one year, maybe five years — [before ] we actually negotiate a deal,” Petersen said. “But the point being, we’re laying the groundwork.”