Hats off to Chick Hernandez of Comcast Sportsnet for landing a sit down interview with Redskins owner Dan Snyder. The full interview airs September 1st, but an excerpt released Wednesday had Snyder revealing that plans are in the works for a new stadium. He doesn’t have a site or projected date for completion, but he says they have already talked to architects about what it will look like.
In discussing the story Thursday with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Lovero on the “Sports Fix” on ESPN 980, Scott Van Pelt asked a very good question. “What is the life of a stadium these days?”
He pointed out that FedEx Field opened only 17 years ago and we’re already talking about replacing it. It’s not like the Redskins will have a new home tomorrow. The FedEx lease runs through 2026. However, it’s possible FedEx Field will be have gone from foundation to rubble in a period of less than 25 years. As Van Pelt said, “some people keep cars longer than that.”
Realize the original home of the Redskins had already been open for more than a quarter of a century when they moved there from Boston in 1937. Griffith Stadium, built on the site where Howard University Hospital now sits, opened in 1911. President William Howard Taft threw out the first ball at the Senators opener. It held only 29,000 people, but ably served as the home of the Senators and Redskins until 1961 when both teams moved out. Griffith Stadium was 50 years old by then.
Both teams moved into D.C. Stadium (it was renamed RFK Stadium after the assassination of Robert F Kennedy in 1968) for what figured to be another long run. This is how it was described in the 1961 Redskins Press Guide:
It is America’s newest stadium – and the world’s best!
This great new 50,000-seat D.C. Stadium has been built for comfort and convenience.
There are no bleacher, backless seats – every seat in the stadium is a comfortable chair with a restful back and arm rests.
There are 26 spacious concessions stands and 45 rest rooms – the most such facilities any stadium can boast.
There is a giant electric scoreboard (240 feet wide, 40 feet high) which flashes messages to the crowd.
The stadium was built at a cost of $100,000 – less than what a condo sells for around here. They did eventually bump the seating up to 55,000, thanks to temporary seats that were installed when the baseball season turned over to football season. They stopped having to bother taking them in and out after the Senators left town for Texas following the 1971 season. The Redskins wound up staying 36 years.
For the 1997 season, they moved into Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. The Redskins Press Guide that year noted that it was built in roughly half the time it normally takes to build a stadium, 17 ½ months. And they added this nugget:
“Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (it was named FedEx Field shortly after Snyder bought the team in 1999) is easily accessible for fans in the Washington Beltway at Raljon, Md. (Raljon was just something Cooke made up to honor his sons, Ralph and John. In perhaps the best line Tony Kornheiser ever wrote in the Washington Post, he said it was a good thing his sons weren’t named Pete and Enis) A new beltway interchange has been constructed to ease the flow of traffic at the stadium and 23,000 parking spaces surround the stadium. Shuttle buses will also be provided to and from the Metro.”
Well, after 17 seasons, I think we can agree FedEx is not as “easily accessible” as the Redskins told us it was. And it’s a large part of why many tolerate FedEx, rather than embrace it. Whenever the Redskins leave, there probably won’t be much in the way of nostalgia about coming and going from the stadium. Cost of building FedEx, by they way – $250 million. A replacement could cost 10 times that.
Who pays that? It’s a good question. D.C. Councilman Jack Evans was on ESPN 980 and said the city will pick up the cost of clearing the RFK site and would expect the Redskins and the NFL to pick up the cost of construction. Maryland and Virginia have both made it known they’d like to have the stadium built in their states. But both likely don’t have the finances to pay for the whole thing.
Much has to be sorted out, and as Snyder told Comcast, these things take time. But as one who started going to games at D.C. Stadium when it was just a few years old, it seems like we’re talking about replacing a stadium that was just built yesterday.