Mar 2, 2022 - News

Town Talker: Dan Snyder's quest for a new stadium

Illustration of the Washington Commanders W logo turning into a V and an M.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With talks stalled for a new NFL stadium in the District, Dan Snyder last December began courting Virginia lawmakers at his new Mount Vernon mansion, the most expensive house in the region.

Why it matters: Snyder's home invitations come as he tries to grease the wheels on the slow-moving site search.

  • One lawmaker says that over the course of an hour the billionaire showed PowerPoint renderings of a future stadium site for the Washington Commanders — a giant entertainment campus with a concert venue, amphitheater, hotel, and more.

Between the lines: Perhaps more than anyone else, local native Snyder has long talked about wanting the team back in D.C., where the storied RFK stadium site provides what's elusive in the suburbs: sweeping camera pans of nearby monuments on a Monday night of football.

  • During Vincent Gray's mayoralty, Snyder privately floated spending $2 billion on constructing a new stadium at the site if the city covered underlying infrastructure, Gray and a former high-level official say.
  • Regarding Virginia, "he said it's too far away," the official said.

The Commanders referred comment to a recent interview with team president Jason Wright, who told David Rubenstein "we can listen to everybody" in the region about a stadium spot.

State of play: Virginia may be his best shot.

  • Roadblocks in the District include opposition from the neighborhood surrounding RFK and council members resistant to spending taxpayer money for a sports team.
  • Snyder's troubled relationship with Congress — stemming from workplace investigations and sexual harassment allegations — means lawmakers aren't moving anytime soon to give the city more control over the federally owned RFK site. That's a precondition to any stadium deal.
  • Across the Potomac, Gov. Glenn Youngkin talks up attracting the team. At a press gaggle on Monday after an unrelated economic development event, he said he met with Snyder but didn't elaborate. (Snyder gave $25,000 to Youngkin's inaugural fund, a public tidbit that led Washington Business Journal to confirm Snyder was the buyer of the $48 million River View estate.)
  • The team is mulling three sites in Prince William and Loudoun counties, revealed by WUSA9 last week and confirmed by Axios.
Data: WUSA9/Axios research. Map: Will Chase/Axios

Yes, but: Virginia has its own complications.

  • Local Democrats are split on $1 billion in public incentives proposed in Richmond to finance a stadium.
  • And the afternoon after he met with Snyder at his home, Virginia state Del. Adam Ebbin says he received a mobile alert from the Washington Post. The Post had just reported Snyder attempted to interfere in an independent investigation of his team's workplace, claims that Snyder's attorney denied.
  • "That gave me a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth," says Ebbin.

Supporters are tight-lipped, too.

  • I tried to reach Senate majority leader Dick Saslaw, a Democrat from Fairfax County, to talk about the stadium incentive bill he sponsored.
  • But whoever picked up his Richmond office phone told me that "we're not making statements on that," then hung up.

District officials say they're still in the game.

  • "Maryland and Virginia have to act first because their legislative sessions close this spring," says a top District official. "That gives the District the ability to review what they propose and put its best foot forward."

💬 Let's talk football — or politics. Town Talker is a weekly column about local politics and power. Send me tips: [email protected]

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