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Redskins end their season ticket wait list, which they once claimed had 200,000 people

Redskins fans stood in the rain during the final minutes of an October loss to the Cowboys last year. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

For years, the Washington Redskins have maintained that the waiting list to purchase season tickets contained tens of thousands of names. Even as the team removed seats from FedEx Field at least three times between 2010 and 2015 while ramping up solicitations to former season ticket holders, officials insisted the waiting list remained packed with fans who wanted a way in. That waiting list, the team said, included 90,000 names or 160,000 or even 200,000.

On Wednesday, the Redskins announced that there is no longer a season ticket waiting list. During a news conference detailing a shift in the team’s efforts to appeal to fans, including new benefits for season ticket holders, a top official acknowledged what he would later make clear in an email to fans: “Season Ticket Memberships will be immediately available to all Redskins fans” starting this week.

“We want to have the best home-field advantage in the National Football League,” Brian Lafemina, the team’s new president of business operations, said at a news conference. “What that means is having rabid Redskins fans sitting in FedEx Field every single week. And the best way to do that is to make sure that fans who want to be season ticket members are allowed to be them today.”

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The waiting list has long been a point of contention among fans and media members, particularly as interest in the team appeared to wane in recent years amid on-field struggles and off-field headaches. That coincided with larger changes: popular and more affordable home entertainment options, a thriving secondary ticket market, a sense that the home-viewing experience now rivals or surpasses the in-stadium experience, and frustrations with parking and lines at FedEx Field.

The team added seats to FedEx Field after Daniel Snyder purchased the franchise in 1999, but what was once the NFL’s largest stadium at a peak capacity of 91,704 now has giant gaps in the upper level where seats have been removed. The stadium, which the Redskins say now has a capacity of roughly 82,000, frequently attracts large pockets of visiting fans, who have had no trouble finding tickets, especially in down years for the Redskins.

By Wednesday afternoon, the team had sent out an email making clear the new reality: “Season Tickets Available Now!” it read.

That email, like other messaging from the team, attempted to stress the advantages fans still could gain from purchasing season tickets. Season ticket holders now will receive reduced prices for concessions, complimentary NFL RedZone and Game Pass access and invitations to offseason events. FedEx Field will feature a new fan pavilion in the west end zone with a revamped bar area and multiple screens showing games from around the league. There also will be digital ticketing upgrades allowing entrance into the stadium and options to sell or give away tickets to others.

The changes were announced a day after tens of thousands of fans celebrated the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship with a parade down Constitution Avenue and a rally on the Mall. Like the Nationals and the Wizards, the Capitals have become postseason regulars. The Redskins, meanwhile, have made the playoffs just five times in the past ­25 seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since January 2006.

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Declining interest in the Redskins has been reflected in other ways, including local television ratings. Washington’s 30-13 road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in December earned an 11.8 household rating in the Washington television market — one of the lowest in recent years and only the third-best rating for an NFL game in Washington that week. As recently as 2014, Redskins games averaged a 22.7 rating. The Capitals’ final six playoff games all earned ratings above 11.8 in the local market; the clinching game received a 25.2 rating.

Lafemina said the Redskins planned on a complete refurbishment of the game experience for fans at FedEx Field.

“We’re going to evaluate every last thing that we do in the stadium and with our fan base,” he said. “The path we’re on — and we’re not there yet and no NFL team is — but the path we’re on is to get to the Amazon, Netflix model where they know what it is that you’re most likely to want before you even tell us. . . . We’re going to utilize tools that are technological in nature to understand our fan base better and to deliver on that experience.”

Earlier Wednesday, FIFA announced that a joint North American bid had been awarded the 2026 World Cup. The United States will host 60 of the 80 matches, and 17 American cities, including Washington, are in the running to be chosen as one of 11 U.S. match venues. Lafemina confirmed that the Redskins would attempt to bring World Cup games to the Washington market.

“We’ve talked about it and we plan on competing,” he said, adding that while having a new stadium by then is a possibility, the team’s “focus right now” remains on FedEx Field. The team’s lease runs out in 2027.

Lafemina arrived in May to lead the business side of the organization, and he said he sees massive opportunity.

“I think this is one of the biggest sleeping giants of an organization in any league,” said Lafemina, who previously spent eight years working for the NFL. “The market that we get to work and live in. The fan base that we have. The brand that is the Washington Redskins. The fact that we’re on a path to go build a new stadium. When you get a chance to do those things in this business, you grab them.

“I think this is, frankly, the best opportunity in sports was to come here and take on this challenge.”

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