The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wary of potential Redskins stadium giveaways, Virginia delegate pushes pact with D.C. and Maryland

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder heads out to the field before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field on Dec. 30. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — A Virginia lawmaker has filed a bill intended to head off a potential bidding war for a new Redskins stadium, proposing that his state enter into an agreement with Maryland and the District not to provide certain incentives to the National Football League team.

The bill from Del. Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier) would prohibit Virginia from offering the team tax incentives, state or local appropriations or loans to build a stadium in the state. The measure would not take effect unless Maryland and the District have promised to swear off similar incentives.

“I don’t want Joe Sixpack paying for a stadium,” Webert said Friday. “Think tanks on the left and right show the subsidies that go to professional stadiums, there really is not the return on investment that everybody says there is.”

Similar bills failed in all three jurisdictions last year. Like Webert, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) and Maryland Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery) will try again this year. Moon said if the measures don’t pass in Virginia and the District, he will consider a bill affecting only Maryland.

“We are hoping to get this thing done this year, especially since this game of pitting local governments against each other is now being publicly played by the team. It’s as good a time as any to not play Daniel Snyder’s game,” Moon said, referring to the team’s owner.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie did not respond to a request for comment.

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Webert’s proposed “interstate compact” does not specifically name the Redskins, referring only to a “Washington area professional football team.” The team is headquartered in Ashburn, Va., but plays at FedEx Field in Prince George’s County, Md. The Redskins’ lease there runs through 2027. The team plans to build a new stadium in Maryland, Virginia or the District, where it played at RFK Stadium from 1961 to 1996 and won three Super Bowl titles. It could cost as much as $1 billion.

So you want to give Daniel Snyder land for a new stadium? Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Virginia state Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax City), who has been involved in efforts to lure the team to Virginia, said Webert’s bill was based on “outdated” notions of stadium deals.

“The team’s going to have to build their own stadium,” Petersen said. “This whole concept that people are writing checks to professional sports owners to move teams to their city is a little bit of a 1980s concept.”

He said it is more likely that the state would offer to build a Metro station or highway ramp to serve a stadium, or provide land for it at a nominal rent. Petersen said Virginia still would come out ahead due to higher revenue from taxes on sales, entertainment and income. Players pay taxes in the state where they play, and their payroll alone is over $100 million a year, Petersen said.

It was not clear whether infrastructure-based incentives would run afoul of Webert’s bill. Webert said the bill “wouldn’t necessarily preclude those things.” But he noted that when a home builder creates a new development, “a lot of times the state doesn’t pay for that extra turn lane.”

Fenit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.