So, St. Louis drew a line with Stan Kroenke, and the Rams relocated to Los Angeles. And San Diego drew a line with Dean Spanos, and now the Chargers are also headed to Los Angeles. Also, St. Louis did the Bradley Beal face at the prospect of subsidizing a soccer stadium, effectively killing off the proposed expansion of MLS into their city.
These are all good things. Sports arenas are of dubious economic benefit for anyone who is not the actual owner of a professional sports team.
This is about to come up again, in ridiculous wave-roofed, moat-surrounded fashion, and involving the most disgraceful team in all of sports and the single most reviled sports owner who has not yet relocated his team over public stadium financing: Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins are making noise about moving out of their miserable, far-flung, inaccessible, concrete mausoleum in the sad-sack and largely fictitious town of Landover, Maryland, and the governments of DC and Virginia are positioning themselves for more serious courtship campaigns. Discussions—public and heated discussions!—have already taken place about the prospect of diverting public money into stadium financing packages as part of the courtship of Snyder’s team.
DC recently won [lost] such a competition with Virginia, when they agreed to spend $150 million in public funds to purchase land along the Anacostia River in 2015 as part of a stadium financing deal with DC United. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe reportedly nudged his way into that negotiation with talk of an expedited process and a less-expensive stadium deal should the team move their home to Loudoun County. It’s unclear whether that courtship was ever all that serious—the Washington Post called it an 11th-hour bid—but it provided all the leverage United required to get over the hump with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The competitors now return once more to the field of battle. The rolling exurban landscape of western Loudoun County—like Seattle now is and Los Angeles once was—is now more a fixed negotiating leverage asset than an actual physical plane of existence. It was presented to Redskins’ owner Jack Kent Cooke as a relocation destination back in 1988; it was dangled when the Redskins relocated from RFK Stadium to the hellish census-designated moonscape of Landover in 1997; it was dangled in 2014 when DC United was agitating for the most expensive stadium project in MLS history; it was the apple of the eye of the doomed Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, whose raison d’être was building the new DC-area home of the relocated Montreal Expos in Northern Virginia; it has been waving from the periphery of every dreary story about stadium traffic and incomprehensible parking and the perils of traversing a dimensional portal into literal hell ever written about FedEx Field. It is The Guy She Told You Not To Worry About of DC professional sports.
I live in western Loudoun County. Loudoun County has four roads: an east-west highway choked around the clock by commuter traffic; an east-west toll road choked nearly around the clock by commuter traffic; an eastern north-south highway choked around the clock by commuter traffic; and a western north-south highway choked nearly around the clock by commuter traffic. The western north-south highway—US-15—has the worst, most hysterically disproportionate rush-hour traffic bottleneck you have ever seen in your life, at Battlefield Parkway in Leesburg. I know this because I have to drive through it every day. Trying to make it north of that intersection before 3:15 p.m. every day is one of the great harrowing trials available to modern humans. If you get there at 3:16 p.m., you are screwed for hours.
I bring up the roads because Virginia, like a lot of states, has long-standing and severe transportation infrastructure problems, many of them revolving around the use of its roads as commuter pathways for DC workers. Loudoun County itself is also contending with a bizarre and asymmetrical economic shape: western Loudoun is trying desperately to maintain its rural history and aesthetic despite an onslaught of executive home development, largely rejecting infrastructure changes that would facilitate first-and-foremost its permanent evolution into a giant field of McMansions; the very eastern part of Loudoun County is denser, and is still largely working class, with a vast population of Latino immigrant families, and all the attendant grumbling and insecurity and crypto-racism one associates with Latino communities in wealthy suburbs; and the middle part of Loudoun County, Ashburn, is a giant upper-class swingers club of government contractors and transplants, sectioned off into barren and remote gated communities.
Some time I will tell you about the Ashburn swingers.
The very last thing in the world Loudoun County needs is a goddamn football stadium. Developers dropped a new town center-type project along Loudoun’s main east-west highway in 2012 called “One Loudoun.” One of the grand plans for One Loudoun—beyond a selection of chain restaurants and a movie theater—was Edelman Financial Field, a dual-use arena slated to house a minor-league baseball team called the Loudoun Hounds and a NASL soccer team called the Virginia Cavalry FC. The only part of this project they got right was the “Field” part—after groundbreaking ceremonies, the project sat still until 2014, when the Hounds asked Loudoun County to issue $55 million in bonds as part of a new stadium financing proposal. The Loudoun County Economic Development Authority lacked the, um, authority to make any such move without approval from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, which was just completely out of the question. One Loudoun sued the team and its backers, and in 2016 the lease was terminated.
But they did get the field! There is, in fact, a giant fucking field adjacent to the chain restaurants and movie theater, complete with some construction equipment and a giant pile of dirt. They hosted a carnival there over the summer.
Now. Obviously the Redskins are not the Loudoun Hounds, nor are they the Virginia Cavalry FC. Despite what Washingtonians tell themselves about their love of basketball, football is THE SPORT of DC and the miserable fucking Redskins are THE SHOW. Certainly there are thousands and thousands of lunatic Virginians who will throw their full-throated support behind any measure that brings them that much closer to their beloved national embarrassment of a football team. If you are one of those people, please kindly go walk into the ocean and stay there.
The longstanding plan for developing a Redskins stadium in Loudoun County revolves around a 280-acre undeveloped site west of Dulles Airport, recently valued at roughly $85 million. McAuliffe has been after this for some time, and has been soft-pedaling the public financing portion of his negotiations with the team, but you won’t need a magnifying glass to figure out the purpose of these negotiations is to determine how much tax money would go into such a project, and not whether there’d be any at all:
“I think there’s a lot of reasons why Dan and company want to bring them to Virginia, because of all the things I just mentioned,” McAuliffe said. “But what I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”
Holding aside what you already know—that NFL stadiums are among the very worst investments that can be made with public funds—and holding aside what I just told you—that Loudoun County would be swamped by this stadium, that its local hub would be a fucking airport, that Loudoun County was so unlikely to support a relatively small subsidy for a stadium project that was already underway that the organizing body instead just sued their way out of the entire thing—Loudon County does not need whatever horseshit fantasy economic revitalization is usually pitched as incentive to pony up public funds. It is the richest county, by median income, in the entire United States. The low-paying, service industry jobs created by a stadium complex will not even be held by the residents of Loudoun County. What Loudoun County residents will get is proximity to the awful team and its awful owner, and hideous Sunday congestion on its already overburdened roads, and decades upon decades of public debt. A deal that is “in the taxpayers’ best interests” has Dan Snyder paying for his own fucking stadium, preferably inside an active, erupting volcano.
No. This thing is being pursued and pitched by local and state politicians looking to put a big and shiny feather in their cap, and for no other reason. Virginia governors are term-limited, and McAuliffe is a sleazy Clintonian operative eying up a future run at a bigger office, and the “coup” of snagging an NFL franchise and the opportunity to talk shit about economic development on national television would be a happy addition to his profile, even while it undermines the economic interests of his constituents. It’s horseshit.
Hi. If you are a sane person, and happen to live in Virginia, please kindly email Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, and 2017 gubernatorial candidates Tom Perriello, Ed Gillespie, Denver Riggleman, Corey Stewart, and Frank Wagner. Please encourage them to not use my tax money to make Dan Snyder richer by plopping an obscene and obscenely expensive boondoggle and monument to his shitty team between my home and civilization. Thank you.