Oct 25, 2023 - News
Town Talker

Scoop: D.C. mayor shakes up staff as Commanders stadium search heats up

Illustration of a small stadium being observed under a magnifying glass.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mayor Bowser is doubling down on building a new football stadium at RFK, freeing up her top confidant to focus on it and hiring consultants who worked on Nats Park.

Why it matters: The early battle lines are drawn. Bowser wants a new stadium to inject economic juice, while several council members and neighbors are anxious about taxpayers footing the bill.

State of play: The mayor's office had a shake-up last week, Axios has learned — right as the RFK debate heats up.

  • Bowser's top confidant, Beverly Perry, is now focused on initiatives like the congressional bill to give D.C. more control over the 190-acre RFK site's future. For now, that is stalled while the House remains speaker-less.
  • Tommy Wells, who led the mayor's policy office and would have been tasked with lobbying council members on a stadium deal, told Axios he is leaving city government early next month.

Zoom in: Two firms are studying financing models for a new stadium in D.C. after the Bowser administration signed a $400,000 contract earlier this month.

  • Results are expected as early as December.
  • One of the firms, the JLL group, worked with D.C. before on the ballpark. The other firm is run by Robert Bobb, a former D.C. city administrator who also managed other cities and led redevelopment projects in Oakland, California, and Richmond, Virginia.

On the Commanders side, owner Josh Harris tapped a stadium and real estate pro, Thad Sheely, as a lead adviser on the search across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

  • In the role since August, Sheely comes to D.C. after remaking State Farm Arena, where the NBA's Atlanta Hawks play. He has taken meetings across town and wants to walk D.C.'s RFK site with city officials, sources say.

Scene setter: Bowser went to the belly of the beast — a community meeting near RFK last Wednesday and talked with residents riled up against a stadium.

  • "Traffic, drunk fans, crime, and rats all featured prominently" in the criticisms, City Paper reported.

What I'm watching: D.C. has a wealth of big project planning firepower. Nina Albert, the new economic development deputy mayor, oversees a "Sports Team" of staffers strategizing the future of RFK.

  • Another name is Scott Burrell, now general counsel at Events D.C, the quasi-independent authority that operates the day-to-day at RFK and other venues. Burrell worked on Audi Field and was once the lieutenant of Allen Lew, a hard-charging D.C. official who built the convention center and Nats Park. Close observers are watching how all the big names will gel.

💭 I'll also be watching Commanders vs. Eagles on Sunday. Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. As always, tell me about the talk of the town: [email protected].

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