Two bills to lure the Washington Football Team to Virginia filed in Richmond
Updated: Feb 16, 2022
By Laura Vozzella
Tailgaters spread out before a Washington Football Team game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., earlier this month. Legislation to be introduced in the Virginia General Assembly could lead to the team moving to Northern Virginia. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
RICHMOND — Leading members of Virginia’s House and Senate on Friday filed legislation sought by the Washington Football Team to build a stadium and vast commercial complex in Northern Virginia, another step in a bipartisan effort to lure the team to the commonwealth.
The bills, taking shape just days after Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) endorsed the idea Monday in his first speech to the General Assembly, would create a football stadium authority that could oversee the financing and construction of a stadium at the heart of a massive retail, entertainment and residential development.
Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Del. Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, each submitted legislation. The bills were not identical, so any differences would have to be worked out before legislation could get to Youngkin’s desk.
“Virginia is a football state. We deserve a football team … both as a source of shared pride and of state revenues,” House Majority Leader Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott) said. “We have a business-minded, forward-thinking governor and House majority, and as we continue to pursue this opportunity, I think it’s important for us to understand how this project and its revenues will benefit the whole state, from Arlington to the mountains of Southwest Virginia.”
The Washington Football Team has been shopping for a new home for years. It is contractually obligated to play at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., until 2027, after which it could stay or seek another home.
The team has not ruled out potential sites in Maryland or the District, but the legislation suggests an intensified focus on Virginia. If the bills move ahead in Virginia, the team would build in Loudoun or Prince William counties, two team representatives said Friday. Officials in the team’s public affairs office declined to comment.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said earlier this week his state still hopes to keep the team on its side of the Potomac. “I’ve personally talked with the owners of the team and leaders of the team, and we’re very interested in keeping them,” he said when asked about the team during a coronavirus briefing.
“But it’s kind of the same situation we’ve been in for seven or eight years. They’re looking to decide where they’re going to be in seven years or so, and Maryland is going to fight,” Hogan added.
A District spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Team officials have been meeting with Virginia legislators for months, sharing detailed renderings of a domed stadium anchoring a vast commercial and entertainment complex intended to be used all year instead of just for 10 home games a year.
The stadium would host other sports and concerts, surrounded by commercial attractions, including restaurants and retail. A conference center and hotels would be part of the project, as well as residential development.
The team initially pitched legislators on a plan to convert the state’s existing baseball stadium authority, created in 1995 with hopes of attracting a Major League Baseball team to Virginia, into an entity that could oversee the financing and construction of a National Football League stadium.
But the team has shifted its approach, and the bills will instead call for a new statute to create a football stadium authority. It would have the ability to issue debt backed by a share of the state sales and income tax revenue created by the stadium portion of the project to offset the cost of construction bonds.
The legislation would not require local government to forfeit any local tax revenue and would not usurp local control over zoning or development.