Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) informed the Washington Redskins that he is withdrawing from efforts to persuade the team to build its next stadium in Oxon Cove Park, adjacent to MGM National Harbor, “at this time,” his spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday night.
Hogan’s decision represents a reversal after acknowledging in December that he had negotiated a nonbinding land swap with U.S. Interior Department officials that could have cleared the way for the Redskins to build their proposed 60,000-seat stadium on the parcel of federal land in Prince George’s County.
Moreover, barring a change of heart, Hogan’s decision strips Redskins owner Daniel Snyder of significant leverage in getting his new stadium built — leverage Snyder was counting on when, and if, he starts negotiating with officials in the District on financial incentives and accommodations for the project.
Hogan is not abandoning his effort to acquire the Oxon Cove site for other purposes, according to Amelia Chasse, his communications director. He is simply halting talks with the Redskins.
“We are not continuing discussions with the Redskins regarding this site at this time, however we are moving full steam ahead with acquiring state control of the Maryland Gateway in Prince George’s County from the federal government,” Chasse wrote in response to an email from The Washington Post asking whether Hogan had withdrawn support of a new Redskins stadium in Maryland. “We believe this site holds significant potential benefits for the region and the state, as does the proposal to expand protected federal parkland in Western Maryland. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the transfer.”
Snyder’s first choice of location for his new stadium is the RFK Stadium site in the District, where the Redskins played from 1961 to 1996 and won three Super Bowl championships under Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs.
Nonetheless, the possibility of building adjacent to MGM National Harbor, as Hogan had advocated, would have served as a useful bargaining chip, as well as a fallback plan.
Virginia, under Gov. Ralph Northam (D), has shown little interest in landing the Redskins’ next stadium.
With Hogan informing Redskins officials that he was calling a halt to his courtship, that leaves Snyder with essentially one suitor: D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has publicly championed the return of the Redskins to the RFK site.
Both Bowser and Snyder face significant political hurdles to build at the site. Because the 190-acre parcel is owned by the federal government, District officials would first have to convince Congress to give the land to the city or extend a long-term lease, along with approval for commercial development.
Working in concert with the Redskins, D.C. officials tried to do that in stealth fashion late last fall, seeking to insert a provision to gain control of the RFK land in an omnibus spending bill. Because that bill wasn’t acted upon before the Republican-controlled Congress adjourned, the process must start anew in the current Congress, where it’s expected to meet more resistance in the Democratic-controlled House.
If the District ultimately gains control of the land, as D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) believes is appropriate, Bowser would then have to persuade the D.C. Council that the best use of the coveted site would be a new stadium for the Redskins.
The mere idea has drawn protests from many residents of Ward 6, whose councilmember, Charles Allen (D), has sponsored an online petition “HailNoRFK” that has 3,700 signatures.
Also on record against a Redskins stadium in the District is Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), who has collaborated with lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia in proposing an interstate compact that would preclude public incentives or financing for a new NFL stadium.
Hogan’s effort to acquire the Oxon Cove site for a Redskins stadium triggered considerable criticism when it became public. Local politicians who hadn’t been briefed on the governor’s closed-door talks with Snyder and Interior Department officials said they felt blindsided. Environmentalists, naturalists, historians and visitors to the Oxon Cove site, which includes a working farm and historical exhibits, voiced alarm.
The fact that Hogan insisted Maryland wouldn’t contribute “one penny” toward construction did little to allay concerns about the environmental impact or answer the question of who would pay for the additional infrastructure demanded by an NFL stadium at an already congested interchange that’s not served by public transportation.
While Snyder is eager to vacate FedEx Field, blaming the 22-year-old stadium for the team’s declining ticket sales and plunging attendance, he can’t do so until September 2027. The Redskins are contractually obligated to play there until that time.
But nothing precludes the team from staying beyond 2027. As owner of both the venue and land, Snyder could refurbish FedEx or build a new stadium in the shadow of the current one.