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Law

Commanders Stadium Bill Tabled Ahead of Expected Vote

  • Vote on bill to create the Virginia Football Stadium Authority was targeted to take place Wednesday.
  • The Commanders are seeking to build a $3 billion domed stadium and three sites in Virginia are in the mix.
Commanders Vote
Courtesy: Washington Commanders

After months of negotiations, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and lawmakers struck a tentative agreement on a budget, a deal that was expected to clear the way for a vote on legislation aimed to bring the Washington Commanders to the state. 

But after months of lobbying by the Commanders, the bill that would create the Virginia Football Stadium Authority — which would establish a committee to determine the best site for the $3 billion domed stadium project and issue debt to cover part of the cost — was shelved Tuesday.

A vote on the bill was expected to take place in Richmond on Wednesday before legislators chose to delay the vote, sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed to Front Office Sports. WUSA-TV was the first report that the vote would be delayed.

The legislation could still come up for consideration at a later date. Legislators expect to hear an update on the status of stadium bill and other legislation before Wednesday’s vote on the budget, state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Prince William County) told FOS.

Commanders President Jason Wright took the delay in a statement to FOS and other outlets.

“We are grateful for the bipartisan support the stadium authority legislation has already received, and any additional time will certainly provide us with more opportunities to share how this project can create new jobs, generate significant tax revenue, and spur economic development for surrounding communities and the Commonwealth as a whole,” Wright said.

The conference committee has worked on consolidated version of the bill for nearly three months out of view of not only the public, but also many other legislators.

During that time, the Commanders have come under increased scrutiny.

  • The House Oversight Committee expanded its probe of the Commanders beyond toxic workplace claims to include allegations of financial irregularities, Front Office Sports reported on March 31.  
  • Two days later, FOS reported that the allegations received by Congress included claims the team held back ticket revenue from the NFL. 
  • The Oversight Committee asked the Federal Trade Commission to review “troubling financial conduct and determine whether further action is necessary” in a letter to the agency sent on April 12. A lawyer for the Commanders called the allegations “uncorroborated and implausible.”
  • Congress’ letter was also sent to the attorney generals in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Virginia and D.C. are currently conducting investigations into the Commanders as a result. 

“Those issues bothered some other people, but I am mainly focused on the transportation piece,” Surovell said.

Among the unknown parts of the final legislation is the exact amount of public funding that would be made available to the Commanders.

When the legislation was first introduced in January, one of the bills would have had as much as $1 billion in public funding, although that number was cut down to about $300 million, sources previously told FOS. 

Representatives for the Commanders have had a steady dialogue with the six members of the conference committee and leaders in the legislature over the last several weeks, a source with knowledge of the situation told FOS. 

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) is among the few legislators outside the conference committee to see the legislation in amended form and he vowed to vote “no” on the bill.

“I do not plan to support the project or Virginia’s pursuit of this NFL franchise,” Petersen said in a statement last Wednesday. “I have two concerns. One is that the development is too far removed from an urban setting, unlike Nats Park at The Navy Yard, which will make it solely dependent on vehicle traffic for access. More importantly, I don’t have confidence in The Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise.

There are three sites under consideration for the “mini city” project that will also include a new team headquarters along with an amphitheater and other entertainment amenities. Last week, ESPN reported the team acquired the rights to acquire 200 acres near Woodbridge, one of the three proposed sites. 

While Woodbridge is only about 23 miles from Washington, D.C., the I-95 freeway that connects the two was labeled the worst traffic hotspot in the nation in a 2017 study

“The biggest question have is how we are going to solve the transportation issues generated by the project,” Surovell said. “Until there are clear answers to that, a lot of people are concerned about blessing the concept.”

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