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Virginia governor says state is ‘in very serious negotiations’ for a Redskins stadium

Redskins fans during training camp in Richmond. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe continued his public courtship with the Redskins this week, touting the virtues of a possible new stadium in Virginia during a lengthy interview with the team’s official radio station.

“I view this as a Virginia team,” the governor said on ESPN 980 on Friday morning, during an appearance at the team’s training camp facilities in Richmond. “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your [practice] facilities. . . . We’re in very serious negotiations, as I assume other jurisdictions are. Listen, we would love to have them.”

While the team’s lease at FedEx Field doesn’t expire until 2027, owner Daniel Snyder has already hired a stadium architect, Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group, which has released potential stadium designs. Officials from the District, where the team used to play, and Maryland, the team’s home for the past 19 seasons, have also expressed interest in a new stadium.

McAuliffe — who hosted Snyder, team President Bruce Allen and other officials at his mansion Thursday night — said Allen told him that about two-thirds of the team’s revenue comes from Virginia residents. The governor repeatedly cited the need to craft a deal that would be fair to Virginia taxpayers but said “if we can come up and be creative with a deal that works for everybody, then I think the team will be here.”

“I think there’s a lot of reasons why Dan and company want to bring them to Virginia, because of all the things I just mentioned,” McAuliffe said. “But what I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”

Later in the interview, McAuliffe discussed the recent economic development in the Tysons Corner area, “going on to Reston/Wiehle, and then to Dulles Airport with the Silver Line, and then further into Loudoun.”

“I think those areas would be great places for a new stadium,” he said, adding that a stadium would have to be near a Metro stop.

“Lot of land over there,” said ESPN 980’s Chris Cooley, who was interviewing McAuliffe. “Lot of open spaces. Where else are you gonna find it?”

Cooley, who works for the team and is close with many of its top officials, had said earlier in training camp that he’s “90 percent sure” where the stadium will be located, and that he thinks an announcement could come before the election in November. And he suggested then that fans’ continued fascination with the RFK Stadium site may be futile.

“You want the sense of the heart of the city, but everyone in the city can get in a car and drive to FedEx or drive to National Harbor or drive to [Virginia],” Cooley said. “Does it even matter that the San Francisco 49ers play in San Jose now? They’re the San Jose 49ers now. And then when you talk about tearing down an RFK and building in [that area], you start talking politically who supported you. Look at this if you’re a fan: Who backed the Redskins name? I don’t think it was D.C. There’s a big issue on that, because there are a lot of people that have a huge impact in D.C [that]  said they have to change [the team name]. If you’re an owner, do you want to work with [D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser]?

McAuliffe — who has previously said Virginia is where the Redskins belong — acknowledged Friday that the District and Maryland are also interested in a new stadium. But he touted his state’s larger population, the fact that it has “plenty of land, obviously, to do this,” and the large number of active-military and veterans in the state, which meshes with the team’s embrace of military causes.

“You look at that angle as well, and I think it’s an important statement for the Redskins: Let’s come to the state that has, per capita, the most veterans,” McAuliffe said. “We love our veterans, we love our active-duty military, and I know the Redskins do, so you’ve got that match as well. So we’re a booming population, a strong economy, it’s already the place where all [the team’s] assets are. You know, it makes a lot of sense to me. But I go back, and the job is always to protect the taxpayers. We can be creative. You’ve seen some of the recent stadium deals. We can do a very creative deal with development rights and things like that, that work for everybody.”

Incidentally, the governor also predicted an imminent Super Bowl victory for the Redskins.

“Next year, I’m going to come back and sit in this very chair at this very table, with you, but you know what’s gonna be sitting right here? The Lombardi Trophy,” he said. “I told [Snyder] last night; he can touch it, but I’m keeping it in the mansion with me.”