Editorial: The Stadium Shuffle

A major league sports stadium in Loudoun County? We’ve had this conversation before—off and on for 30 years. The transportation and economic challenges haven’t changed much over those decades (although the costs involved with such a project have grown exponentially).

The pros and cons of a Loudoun location haven’t changed much either.

The county offers thousands of acres of relatively cheap, undeveloped land that could easily accommodate a bowl of seats surrounded by a sea of parking. However, despite the county’s rapid population growth, it is still on the fringe of the metropolitan area with limited transportation access.

When talks of building a sports stadium near Dulles Airport first surfaced, Rt. 28 was in the process of being expanded from a two-lane road and the Dulles Toll Road stopped at the county line. Today, Rt. 28 is a limited-access highway and the Dulles Greenway stretches to Leesburg, yet the road network still struggles to get commuters to work and back each day. The fact that the Capital Beltway barely functions near the current stadium on a Redskins’ game day doesn’t bode well for better performance on roads in Loudoun or the surrounding suburban counties. Even nearby access to a Silver Line station may not solve that problem.

Then there is the cost.

When county supervisors pondered the stadium concept in the early 1990s, they made it clear that local tax dollars wouldn’t be diverted to support the project. “The county is broke,” was how the board’s Finance Committee chairman at the time described their position. There is no reason to think present-day supervisors would have any different position, given the long list of community needs already sitting on the funding waitlist. Likewise, state funds would likely find better use in expanding educational opportunities and job training, or improving the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure than helping to build a sports stadium.

But there are merits to helping the team expand and modernize its headquarters—in Virginia and in Loudoun. Few Virginia companies can match the payroll checks printed by the NFL franchise—that adds to the state’s bottom line—and the team and its players have worked to become strong community partners.

If the negotiations follow traditional patterns, the next Redskins’ stadium will end up as another anchor tenant spurring redevelopment in the nation’s capital. Looking at the Washington Nationals’ impact, there’s evidence that would be a benefit to both the city and the region.

And if the team increases its investment as a valued Loudoun—and Virginia—business with a new or expanded Redskins Park, that’s a win state and local leaders, and even taxpayers, could celebrate.

Leave a Reply