A spokesman for the commanders declined to comment on Monday. Earlier in the morning, before the news broke, team president Jason Wright declined to comment on the status of the team’s search for the stadium.
“It’s all incredibly confidential,” Wright said in an interview. “The way we’ve always tried to do business with partners – Maryland, Virginia or DC – is to treat it as their project, their economic development strategy and to keep everything as quiet as possible so that the objectives that they have be most capable of being accomplished.”
State Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax), whose district includes the two potential sites in Prince William, said one of the Richmond-based team lobbyists called him Monday after ESPN broke the news. The lobbyist told Surovell the team had yet to purchase the land in Woodbridge, near Potomac Mills, but had an option to buy it, Surovell said.
The Commanders acquisition, while a signal that the franchise is serious about Woodbridge, doesn’t mean the move is a done deal. The team’s stadium search has apparently narrowed down to five venues – Woodbridge; near Potomac Shores Golf Club in Dumfries, Virginia; a quarry near Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Virginia; RFK Stadium in Washington; and a site near FedEx Field – and acquiring land in Virginia could ultimately be a negotiating tactic.
Margaret Franklin, the Prince William County supervisor who represents Woodbridge, said she knew nothing about the sale. “I do not represent any area under consideration,” she said via text message.
One of the sites being investigated is an area known as The Landing at Prince William, a stretch of land near I-95 and the Prince William County Parkway that, in 2019, the county has rezoned for possible redevelopment. But Supervisor Kenny Boddye (D-Occoquan), who represents that area, said he was unaware of a land purchase there.
“I know they are watching this ground,” Boddye said, adding that he had not been contacted by commanders and had learned of the possibility of a purchase from Prince William through news reports. “There was no official request with the county or anything like that. Looks like they’re just trying to lock down land on potential sites they’re considering in the county.
A spokeswoman for the Prince William County Economic Development Authority said the organization could not confirm the sale.
“No decision has been made regarding a new stadium in Prince William County,” Christina Winn, executive director of the Prince William County Department of Economic Development, said in a statement. “As far as we understand, the team is exploring all of their options, including where they currently own land.”
“While this news does not mean that the team has officially chosen Prince William County, we look forward to engaging with the team to ensure that any development opportunity will suit the community and that there will be a positive economic and fiscal benefit for the county. ,” she continued.
In fact, Commanders owner Daniel Snyder already owns a similar amount of land – over 200 acres – at FedEx Field. The organization has discussed similar plans for a “mini-city” with Maryland lawmakers, with a state-of-the-art stadium anchoring a large entertainment complex with restaurants, retail and housing. The state plans to spend $400 million to develop the area around FedEx Field, but not to build the stadium itself.
The team has occasionally expressed interest in returning to the RFK Stadium site in Washington, but district leaders have been unable to introduce legislation to make federally owned land a viable option for several reasons. , including funding.
In a recent Washington Post survey of mayoral and DC Council candidates, only three of 24 respondents said taxpayers should subsidize construction or development to support a new Commanders Stadium – although one is in favor of providing funding was Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
“I support the return of Commanders to DC and would be prepared to prepare the ground for their use, but I will not pay for the construction of the stadium or subsidize it,” Bowser wrote in response to the questionnaire. “Either way, I’m asking the federal government to transfer the land so we can use it to maximize recreation, retail and affordable housing.”
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who said “no” to the grants, said he supports the city taking control of the RFK field but will oppose commanders occupying it until the NFL releases a report on the findings of its sexual harassment investigation of Snyder. He also said the 13-member council was sharply divided over what to do with the land.
On Monday, news of the purchase came as Virginia lawmakers were ordered to return to Richmond on June 1 to vote on a proposed state budget. This will be their last opportunity to vote on the Stadium Authority legislation, which, like the budget, was postponed until an extraordinary session after the General Assembly failed to conclude its work at the ordinary session. which ended in March. Lawmakers tasked with settling differences between rival House and Senate stadium bills indicated last week that negotiations were still ongoing.
News of the sale and potential move has caused some to worry about the effect on the community. If Commanders end up building in Woodbridge, the impact on local traffic on game days “would be pretty damn significant” in a county that relies heavily on automobiles for transportation, said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. , an organization that advocates for pedestrian-friendly communities built around public transit.
As it stands, this part of Interstate 95 is perpetually congested during rush hour, reflecting the fact that Woodbridge has become more densely populated as Prince William’s population continues to grow.
County officials and state lawmakers who represent the area have been pushing for extended public transit in the area, though that may be prohibitively expensive without additional development built around those trains, Schwartz said. .
Last year, the Virginia Department of Railroads and Transit estimated it would cost $27 billion to extend the yellow or blue lines to this part of Prince William.
The Virginia purchase did not dilute the hope of Maryland lawmakers that the team would remain in Landover. Maryland lawmakers this spring approved investing $400 million in the area around FedEx Field, money to dismantle the existing stadium and build amenities that could anchor a mini-city concept. The money will be spent regardless of the commander’s move, but Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s), who represents the community near the stadium, said he hopes the $400 million is just the start of an incentive package for the team.
“I want this to be the start of the conversation,” Lewis said. “Of course, I would like them to stay and invest… But if they leave, then fine.”
The Commanders have played at FedEx Field since 1997, but have been looking for a new stadium option for several years. The team is obligated to play in Landover until at least 2027.
The team’s stadium search should be a topic of conversation going forward. He led a Monday morning panel of local sports leaders hosted by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
“Jason, are we ready to say where the new stadium location is -,” began moderator Greg Wallig, general manager of Grant Thornton’s DC and Arlington metropolitan office.
“Is that where we’re going to start?” Wright said with a laugh, before objecting.
Vozzella reported from Richmond. Erin Cox contributed to this report.
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