Daniel Snyder always gets caught. Is there graduate school for Dead of Night Stadium Deals that accepts middle-aged billionaires?
If Washington’s NFL owner tried to park in one of those spots with the diagonal zebra stripes — not a handicapped spot, mind you, but just one of those cross-walky things — he probably would be surrounded by FBI agents. No luck at all.
You have to feel sorry for the guy. All he wants for the holidays is the free use of hundreds of acres of public land where he can build a billion-dollar football stadium for his Snyderskins. With a moat around it. Talk about a man who knows the mood of his customers.
Snyder isn’t even picky. He doesn’t care whether this freebie is handed to him by the D.C. government or by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R). First come, first fleeced.
I don’t care if or where Snyder builds a new stadium. I just hope everyone in the DMV understands that the shabby way Snyder deals with his own customers — and the way he is playing politicians against each other while keeping some of them in the dark — is exactly the behavior they can expect if he moves to their turf. The bigger the project — and this ego-driven monstrosity no doubt would be vast — the worse it can turn out. For your wallet or your quality of life.
Of note, it looks as if Snyder hasn’t told his personal politicians in Maryland that he is simultaneously trying to wangle a sweetheart deal in D.C. on the current site of RFK Stadium. And vice versa: Snyder hasn’t told the politicians in D.C. who want to get in bed with him that he is playing footsie with Hogan at the same time.
So maybe free use of land for eternity isn’t quite all he wants. If either Maryland or D.C. wants to kick in millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements or maybe give him some huge tax-break incentive to build his playpen in its municipality, he wouldn’t turn it down. And that site he covets in Prince George’s County has no subway stop. Sooner or later, that would need to be fixed — by someone other than Snyder.
Who pays for the construction of such a stadium? To Be Determined, it seems.
Your standard professional sports owner can keep his backroom dealings a secret until the last minute. One MLB owner got approval for a new stadium after a vote in the state legislature that mysteriously was called — and passed — after 3 a.m.
But not just-plain-unlucky Dan.
According to reporting by The Washington Post, Hogan has held a series of private meetings over the past two years with Snyder and recently has spoken with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke about acquiring control of federal land for a new stadium.
There’s a memorandum of understanding with federal officials that is a first step toward Maryland getting development rights to a 300-acre parcel of land in Oxon Cove, adjacent to MGM National Harbor, via a “land swap.”
This, apparently, will come as a surprise to D.C. politicians, who thought they were the ones operating under the public’s radar.
Snyder also is getting help from D.C. officials, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration as he tries to clear a big roadblock to building a 60,000-seat stadium on the site of RFK Stadium.
The team has been working with local and federal officials to insert a stadium provision into the massive spending bill that the GOP-controlled Congress is rushing to complete this month. It could pave the way for the stadium and other commercial development on the 190-acre site. By tucking it into a complex spending bill, the team and local pols could sidestep some public debate over whether other uses for the coveted parcel would help more D.C. residents.
For years, the Redskins talked about building their dream stadium in Northern Virginia, where the team’s headquarters is located. No reports have surfaced of secretive discussions. But the team and Northern Virginia are not as cozy since the team moved its preseason training camp to Richmond. Now guess which city is moaning about getting a bad deal with the Redskins: yes, Richmond.
Where would Snyder truly prefer to take up stadium residence after FedEx Field’s lease on the Prince George’s County land where it sits ends in 2027? In the past, he has preferred the RFK site. He says it has sentimental value to him from his youthful memories of going there when the Redskins were . . . good.
Of course, the value of the land that would be under a stadium at RFK would be far more valuable than the PG parcel. Snyder would not own the land on either site, but the value of his franchise would be enhanced if it were built on top of pricier D.C. land. Location, location . . .
Snyder, perhaps, has picked an unfortunate time to be finagling with multiple jurisdictions about a stadium of which the public has heard little or nothing. The Redskins’ popularity, once invulnerable, has plummeted under Snyder, who has removed thousands of seats at FedEx Field because he can’t sell them. He also listens as his team is booed, for example this past Sunday, trailing 40-0, or else hears his own fans drowned out by the cheers of fans of the visiting team.
A surefire way to bring back some alienated fans is a new stadium, especially when your current one is routinely mocked as the perfect game-day experience — if you like traffic jams, high prices and drunks yelling family-unfriendly curses.
Local fans — and their representatives — should not be fooled by the flashy success of new sports facilities in D.C. Often, cities get little or negative value from using public resources — money for construction, free use of land, new infrastructure, tax breaks, you name it — for new homes for privately owned teams.
D.C. has been fortunate. Abe Pollin built his own arena. D.C. found a way to get suburbanites to pay for a big chunk of its new park by slapping stiff taxes on all Nationals tickets and food to help pay off ballpark bonds.
But if your jurisdiction or neighborhood decides to hook up with Snyder in a multibillion-dollar business adventure, then expect him to treat you — forever — the same way he treats everyone else.
Perhaps the only advantage that the public in the DMV has when dealing with Snyder and his stadium avarice is that he seems so inept at keeping things quiet.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying.