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‘Fight for old DC’ taking new meaning as NFL stadium suitors dwindle

The sun sets behind FedEx Field before an NFL football game between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins have made no secret they wish to abandon FedEx Field just as soon as they can.

Though their lease runs until 2027, the organization has been negotiating with local governments about a new site in recent years, and Maryland said this week that discussions about using land the state wants to acquire in Oxon Cove are finished.

That seems to leave D.C. as the only government willing to roll out the red carpet for the team, and that still hasn’t changed.

“The best site in the region for the team is right there at the RFK campus,” said John Falcicchio, chief of staff for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“There’s no one in the city who thinks we should just leave that land as 190 acres of undeveloped asphalt parking lot. Really, the biggest question is what we do with it. The first step, though, is getting the land,” Falcicchio said.

Serious negotiations with the team can’t, and won’t, begin until that’s settled, he added.

Right now, the land is marked for sports and recreation under the terms of the existing lease with the federal government. The city would like to receive the land outright and, barring that, extend the lease and expand the options for the site with a vision of mixed-use development happening there, too.

“We can have a mixed-use development there that would be vibrant,” Falcicchio said, “and allow us to build housing, create jobs with office, retail and even a hotel.”

Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen said the District should be in charged of that land. RFK sits in Ward 6, and residents want to see the fields of asphalt replaced by something more useful and more aesthetically pleasing.

But, countering, Allen said, “The RFK site continues to be a very wrong choice for an NFL stadium.”

“There’s so much more we can do with that space, where we could add new housing, new jobs, new commercial activity. We can have parks and green spaces that connect our city to the river,” he added. “There’s so much of a different, and frankly better, vision than using it for a massive NFL stadium that’s going to get used a handful of days a year.”

The Bowser administration repeatedly said that everything starts with knowing the future of the land. “Everything else is secondary to that first conversation,” Falcicchio said. “All that will help dictate what uses can go at the stadium.”

But, Falcicchio added that if the team does relocate to the city, “the most important thing for us is for the team to understand that they would be paying for the stadium. The District will have to make improvements to that site, but the stadium itself will have to be paid for by the team, and that’s something we won’t budge on.”

Allen said even that’s too much for him and those who live in the neighborhood.

“I think that’s the wrong site,” Allen said, adding that he didn’t see what was wrong with the team’s current site. An NFL stadium wouldn’t work at RFK, he said, and that he’d fight every effort to put it there.

“We know the myth they’re trying to sell everybody is that their lease is going to end and they can’t play there past 2027,” Allen said. “That’s now been blown up, and everyone knows they can stay there actually. They could rebuild a stadium at that site. Perhaps a large, suburban space is the right idea for a stadium that’s only used a couple of times a year.”

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