RICHMOND — When the General Assembly convened in January, a bill supporting a new NFL stadium in Virginia seemed like a near certainty.
The project has been courted by politicians of both parties for nearly a decade – with loud proclamations and arguments, but also behind-the-scenes lobbying and favor courtship.
Now that deal has reached the 11th hour and its fate is far from certain.
Senator Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, one of the project’s main backers, withdrew his support for the bill, which was due to be introduced in the General Assembly next week.
That bill started the session with an estimated price tag of $1 billion, but had been reduced to $350 million to allay concerns that the state was bidding against itself as team owner, Dan Snyder, faced a number of crises.
Petersen – one of the original members of the “Redskins Caucus” who promoted the team and its interests in the Legislative Assembly – issued a scathing statement Wednesday night.
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“I respect that it could create jobs and income in Prince William [County],” he wrote. “However, I do not plan to support the project or Virginia’s pursuit of this NFL franchise.”
He added, “Most importantly, I have no faith in the Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise.”
The franchise on Monday unveiled plans for a $3 billion stadium complex in Woodbridge, but that project is pending state approval of its grant next week.
If the project fails or is not put to a vote, the team that once expected a bidding war between three localities (DC, Maryland and Virginia) instead plans to receive no direct public support from any of the three in his quest for a new stadium.
The Maryland Legislature put a $400 million bid on the table, but the state would control how the money is spent and added the stipulation that it could not be used on the stadium itself, only on the surrounding area and infrastructure.
Governor Glenn Youngkin supported the project, as did his two predecessors. It was unclear Wednesday night, however, whether he would have the votes to go through the Senate.
Other senators have raised concerns about sexual harassment investigations at the franchise. Of the. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, requested an amendment that would remove state support if new information comes to light. The NFL has commissioned a second investigation, this one into allegations made directly against Snyder.
Team president Jason Wright stressed the importance of next week’s vote for the franchise.
“The bill being drafted in the Virginia General Assembly would pave the way for us to engage in meaningful discussions with state and local leaders across the Commonwealth about their economic development goals and how our new place can significantly support these goals,” Wright said.
Petersen’s statement clarified his thoughts.
He wrote: “I grew up a Washington Redskins fan. … [The Commanders] have no history, no lore and no fan base. I don’t see them as a suitable economic partner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, because I don’t think they have the community support to survive.