One Virginia state senator will not be supporting the Washington Commanders’ attempts to build a stadium in the commonwealth after the team bought land in Woodbridge as a potential site.
Democratic state Sen. Chap Petersen said in a statement Wednesday night that he read legislation put forth to lawmakers during this year’s Virginia General Assembly session in support of a new football stadium.
Despite the team having an option to buy 200 acres of land for about $100 million in Prince William County and the creation of jobs and revenue in the region, Petersen said he does not plan to support any stadium project or “Virginia’s pursuit of this NFL franchise.”
Petersen, who represents Fairfax County, said he is concerned at how far the land is to an urban setting, making fans dependent on cars to get there. He compared the land’s lack of amenities to Nationals Park in D.C., where restaurants, apartment/condo buildings and the Navy Yard Metro Station surround the ballpark.
“More importantly, I don’t have confidence in the Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise,” Petersen said.
The Virginia House and Senate passed differing versions of a bill for a stadium paid by taxpayers and a six-member committee was established to work on one signal legislation to pass both chambers. The General Assembly is set to meet for a special session starting on June 1.
Petersen said that he grew up a fan of the team — referencing the Commanders’ old name — that helped “defined our community for multiple generations.” The Commanders are not that team, he said.
“They have no history, no tradition and no fan base,” Petersen said. “I do not consider them an appropriate economic partner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, because I don’t think they have the community support to survive.”
In a statement to WTOP, Commanders Team President Jason Wright said that the team is “incredibly eager to continue our work with legislative leaders in Virginia and other jurisdictions” to make their new stadium dreams into a reality.
“The bill being crafted in the Virginia General Assembly would pave the way for us to engage in meaningful discussions with state and local leaders in the Commonwealth on their economic development goals and how our new venue can dramatically support those objectives,”
Petersen was not the only Virginia lawmaker to sound off. Republican state Sen. Stephen Newman, who is a part of the committee working on the stadium bills, told The Washington Post that the controversies surrounding team owner Daniel Snyder have a number of senators “concerned” on passing any stadium legislation.
“Most people would like to have the team here,” Newman told the Post. “The question that still remains is whether or not there is any political will to move forward this year given some of the difficulties surrounding the owner.”
Del. Cliff Hayes voiced similar concerns in April when the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform said it was investigating the team for engaging in deceptive business practices over more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.
The team denied the allegations.
Hayes, who is also a member of the stadium bill committee, added that he did not think working on a stadium bill should be “at the top of our list of things to do.”
The Washington Commanders currently practice in Ashburn, Virginia, and have played its games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, since 1997. The team’s lease in Landover ends in 2027.
The Associated Press and WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.