Opposition is mounting in the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature to Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal for a new Redskins stadium in a park overlooking the Potomac River in Prince George’s County.
House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch said Thursday he is opposed to spending taxpayer money on infrastructure for a new stadium when the state has more pressing needs, such as increasing school funding.
Busch’s opposition isn’t the only hurdle for Hogan’s plan for the 300-acre site at Oxon Cove Park. State lawmakers are submitting legislation to block the move; the Washington Redskins are exploring other sites; a federal environmental study is needed, and both the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress would have to approve various aspects of the deal.
In an interview at the State House, Busch said providing infrastructure work for a new Redskins stadium could prove costly.
“I don’t know who’s going to vote for that,” Busch said of Hogan’s statement that the state could maybe pay for the necessary infrastructure improvements. “He can’t pay for the infrastructure he’s already promised people.”
Hogan has been pushing a parkland swap with federal officials in an effort to identify a site in Maryland where a new Redskins stadium could be built. He proposes that Maryland get federal property at Oxon Cove Park in Prince George’s, which it would offer the team. The state would turn over unspecified land in Western Maryland for a battlefield monument federal officials want to create there.
The governor and new Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks have been working to try to keep the team in the county, even as the Redskins consider sites in Washington and Virginia, as well.
The Republican governor this week touted the potential of a stadium at Oxon Cove Park. He called the site “beautiful” and “wonderful” and argued that it is underutilized. Operated by the National Park Service, the park includes 512 acres, a farm museum, bike paths and trails.
But Busch said he sees no reason for the Redskins to leave their location 15 miles to the northeast at FedEx Field in Landover.
“The deal was made with the Redskins before to be in Prince George’s County,” the Anne Arundel Democrat said. “We put tons of money into infrastructure there. I don’t know why they think they have to leave. Nobody has convinced me they need to leave.”
Taxpayers in Maryland put up $70.5 million for land, sewer lines, highway interchanges and other infrastructure necessary to move the Redskins to Landover, 5 miles from their old location in Washington. The team financed the $180 million construction of the stadium from private sources. The stadium opened in 1997.
Taxpayers paid significantly more for the Ravens stadium in Baltimore — a $220 million arena built and financed by the state.
Hogan pledged this week not to use taxpayer money to construct a stadium for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, but said taxpayers might pay for infrastructure.
“We’re not going to build a billionaire a stadium,” Hogan said. “We’re not going to spend one penny for construction. … Maybe infrastructure improvements.”
Rep. Anthony Brown, a Prince George’s Democrat, said he shares Hogan’s desire to keep the Redskins in the state. But Brown said a transparent process is needed for any deal involving “public land — land owned by all of us.”
“Any decision made must be the right decision for the local communities impacted by this move,” Brown said in a statement. “That means fully understanding the potential environmental consequences, the need for new and robust infrastructure investments, and the vision for the future of the current location of FedEx Field in Landover."
Hogan has declined to release additional details about the plans — including the site under consideration in western Maryland that the state would offer in the land swap — saying the proposals were far from final. An administration spokeswoman said officials were declining to release memorandums of understanding concerning the deals because they are drafts. She added that Maryland taxpayers have incurred no costs thus far.
But state Del. David Moon of Montgomery County said he will introduce legislation in the session that begins Jan. 9 that would block the state from assisting the team with a new stadium.
Last session, Moon, a Democrat, and Del. Trent Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, tried unsuccessfully to enter into a three-district compact to prevent the Redskins from receiving subsidies from Maryland, the District of Columbia or Virginia.
The bill would have prevented Maryland from leasing or donating land to a Washington-area football team, blocked funding of infrastructure projects for the team and prohibited support for construction for a stadium.
Moon withdrew the bill when companion legislation in Virginia died. But, he said, talk this week of the Oxon Cove deal has energized support for his legislation.
“We didn’t know when the discussions would turn serious,” Moon said of the Redskins deal. “It seems to be moving a lot faster than we thought. I’m amazed they kept us all in the dark about this for so long.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, urged lawmakers to hear out plans for the site before moving to block a stadium there.
“Redeveloping this gateway to Maryland has limitless potential, including family attractions, new homes, retail, and businesses that will bring visitors and investment to the state while enriching the surrounding communities,” she said. “It's surprising and shortsighted that some legislators are trying to block this economic development opportunity for Prince George's County and our state before there's even a proposal on the table.”
Chasse added that the administration is “open to working with local residents and interested parties to preserve existing historical features and public park spaces on this beautiful piece of land.”
Hogan said this week he met personally with both Snyder and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke multiple times about the deal. Hogan said he finalized a tentative agreement with Zinke last year, but has no firm agreement from Snyder.
He called the plan just an “idea.”
The Redskins have been exploring sites in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, including a potential new 60,000-seat stadium at the site of the old RFK Stadium.
The team has not commented publicly on the plans. A spokesman did not return a call Thursday requesting comment.
Del. Erek Barron, a Democrat who represents Landover where FedEx Field is located, said he appreciated the governor’s engagement on the issue and wanted to learn more about Hogan’s plans.
But Barron said he would be concerned for the community if the Redskins moved.
“What bothers folks in Prince George’s is the feeling there wasn’t any communication from the team or from the governor about this,” he said. “I’m happy we’re trying to work with the team. I think it’s positive he’s attuned to this issue. But I really can’t say I’m for the proposal without knowing more.”