While perusing an NFL.com article on stadium construction I ran across a table that listed NFL stadiums by their age and I was mildly surprised to see that that FedEx Field, which opened in 1997, is moving into the group of the older stadiums in the NFL.
As of right now 13 stadiums, ranging from Lambeau Field in Green Bay (opened in 1957) to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (1996) are older than FedEx Field. But that will change in a few years when the 49ers move out of Candlestick Park (1960) to their new digs in Santa Clara and the Vikings abandon the Metrodome (1982) for their new downtown stadium.
And sometime in the next several years a team, perhaps the Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium 1967) or Bills (Ralph Wilson Stadium 1973), is likely to bolt for a sparkling new stadium in Los Angeles. There is a lot of buzz that Atlanta will replace the Georgia Dome (1992) well before the decade is out.
If those moves are indeed made the place the Redskins have called home for just 15 seasons will fall into the group of the 10 oldest stadiums in the NFL.
That brings up the question of if a new stadium is in the Redskins’ future. The answer is yes, but it is likely that a new home is more in the distant future than something that is right around the corner.
Some have talked of a big stadium with a retractable roof, a facility that could attract big events like a college basketball Final Four, college conference championship games, and big-time concerts in addition to providing a home for the Redskins for 10 games per year. There has been talk that the team should move back to D. C. but there is no serious proposal for doing so on the table.
But a new home for the Redskins may be a pipe dream. It will be a challenge to get any sort of modern stadium built at all. The price tags for the two newest NFL stadiums, MetLife in New Jersey and Jerry Jones’ palace in Dallas, were $1.6 billion and $1.15 billion, respectively. Cowboys Stadium has a roof while the stadium in the Meadowlands does not.
In comparison, FedEx Field cost about $250 million to build. By the early 2000’s, the cost of building an NFL stadium had gone up into the $300 million range. A decade later, there was the massive jump to the price tags we saw for the stadiums in Texas and New Jersey. The Santa Clara stadium is slated to run $1.2 billion and the Vikings building will cost something in that neighborhood.
Given that rate of inflation in construction is not hard to see the cost of a new stadium approaching $2 billion towards the end of the decade, which is the earliest the Redskins could realistically expect to put a shovel into the ground for a new building. Coming up with that kind of money would be extremely challenging.
The days of taxpayer-funded NFL stadiums are long gone. Team ownership is expected to provide at least half of the cost of a new stadium. With the Redskins among the most profitable teams in all of sports the expected owner’s contribution could go higher. It would be extremely difficult for Dan Snyder to economically justify stroking a check for a billion dollars or more for new digs, even if he could. It would take a very long time to make enough additional profit to cover that mount.
Even if Snyder could kick in his share it’s hard to see any of the government entities making such a financial commitment. Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s staff was grilled for the state giving the Redskins a grant of $4 million towards the renovation of Redskins Park. Unless the political distaste for being accused of “subsidizing billionaires” changes anytime soon it is hard to see anything approaching what the government’s tab would be for a new Redskins stadium getting approval.
FedEx Field has undergone various additions, improvements, and renovations since it opened. The latest, the installation of standing area where some of the less-desirable end zone seats used to be, is just being finished for the upcoming season. It is likely that the stadium will undergo several more rounds of repairs and upgrades before a new building is seriously considered.
Chances are that FedEx Field will be much older than the 10th oldest stadium before it is replaced. If the current atmosphere persists, FedEx will be approaching its 30th birthday before a new stadium is in the offing.