The Redskins have taken a noticeably different approach in their personnel moves this offseason, forgoing splashy headlines and big skill-position names while signing solid defensive pieces at mostly modest prices.
The team also seems to be taking a different approach toward its fans, judging by a letter team president Bruce Allen sent to season-ticket holders this week. Striking a humble, contrite tone, Allen acknowledged the widespread dissatisfaction with the FedEx Field game-day experience and promised improvements in parking, stadium entry, technology, concessions and elsewhere.
He said the team would be removing its much-hyped “party decks” to decrease congestion on the club level, that it’s considering “a number of significant additions” to its concessions operation, that it will create more ways to get into the stadium, and that it hopes to improve the parking situation, possibly by creating dedicated tailgating areas. He also said the team made a $5 million investment that will give free Wi-Fi to every fan, “accessible from every seat.”
“Redskins fans deserve a stadium experience worthy of your loyal support,” Allen wrote. “It’s clear from your feedback that in several areas, we need to do better.”
The impetus for these changes came from surveys sent out by the NFL and the team, according to Allen’s letter. He said fans responded that entering the stadium “was too difficult and time-consuming,” that they want “better access to mobile and digital technology,” that the club level “was too congested and difficult to navigate,” that the parking lots are similarly frustrating, that they want “more and better entertainment options” inside the stadium, and that “concessions options were lacking.”
He also announced a two-hour fan forum at FedEx Field in April, where he and his staff “will listen to your questions, respond to your concerns, and incorporate your suggestions when it comes to the fan experience.” The team, Allen said, wants to provide “the best Game Day experience in sports.”
Skeptics might point out that the letter comes as ticket-holders are deciding whether to renew their accounts, and that the elimination of the party decks seems certain to further reduce the capacity of a stadium that has been shrinking in recent years. Once listed at more than 91,000, the capacity fell to around 80,000 with the creation of the party decks several years ago, which were promised to create “a better fan experience.”
Skeptics might also argue that it took another season of discontent — which featured sometimes sparse crowds, a tale of expired beer, many paper bag heads and various other protests — for the team to promise changes fans had long asked for.
Will this new approach be real, and will it stick? The same could be asked of Washington’s new direction in personnel. This story, in other words, will be updated. But these could be valuable first steps.
The full letter is below.