Now that the Washington (D.C.) Football Team has completed its 18 month renaming process, it is time to arrive at the next important decision. The Commanders must decide where to play. Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – The DMV – are about to enter an arms race for constructing a stadium campus and drawing the team to a new home. After careful consideration of the options available, the choice becomes obvious: move the NFL to Tacoma, Washington.
A move is vital. The Commanders’ current stadium in Raljon, Maryland was assembled like a Tinkertoy, dropped in a moat of parking, and spills sewage on fans. The team’s impotent leadership is just as deep in a scandal of assaulting cheerleaders and the owner has a history of petulance to the media and murdering trees. A move to the Pacific Northwest allows the organization to shed much of that history.
The team has been moribund since their 1991 Super Bowl victory. It’s been 17 years since they won a playoff game, a decade since they’ve won 10 games, and five years of winning less than half their games. This streak has pushed the team’s lifetime record below .500. Washington D.C. football is less than losers, they’re a want-to-be storied franchise that’s been irrelevant for two full football generations. Or one Tom Brady career.
Tacoma may seem close to the existing NFL team in Seattle, but that is a situation the Washington Commanders are used to. Washington D.C. is just 30 miles south of Baltimore, as far as Tacoma is to Seattle. The move west would allow the Commanders to linger in the Seahawks’ shadow and their more reasonable lifetime record 374-350-1, instead of the Ravens’ gaudy success (lifetime record 233-183-1).
And a move to the Pacific Northwest has other attributes. Besides the overwhelming natural beauty of Cascadia, there is the billionaire’s beauty of the state’s lack of income tax. The region has a long history of football success, including almost winning back-to-back Super Bowls. And local NFL ring-of-honoree Jim Zorn is one of the most storied head coaches in the Commander’s maroon and black history.
Tacoma itself is entering a renaissance, with moves to improve housing and transportation as well as the coming Sound Transit light rail. More importantly, the massive Emerald Queen Casino has opened a branch of the MGM sports book along with their sprawling expansion and what appears to be a lovely bar and grill.
The change of name for the Washington Commanders has a strong military component. One that, as Kevin B. Blackistone points out, almost paints over the team’s recent struggles. A move to the northwest puts the team in reach of some active military commanders instead of the golf-playing Pentagon types. Tacoma is the gateway and slow entrance to Joint Base Lewis McCord. Also, it’s a short hop to Hanford and Bremerton with the PNW’s extensive contributions to the country’s nuclear stockpile.
Let’s be frank, what does the DMV actually offer a football team? The region is utterly divided between a northern state, a southern state, and the federal district. Which one is which changes by the day and administration. Such division is why the once-legendary D.C. metro system keeps bursting into flames and why this competition for a stadium is setting up to be such a Thunderdome death match.
The Maryland Stadium Authority is fishing around for something to do after completing the award winning Baltimore stadiums and a bunch of university athletic complexes. Virginia is gearing up its own football stadium authority to hand over most of Loudon County to the NFL. And D.C. has plans on the board to rebuild the team’s historic home at RFK Stadium into something that was going to attract the Olympics. The only place in the DMV set to lose is the current location of the team’s stadium, Prince George’s County Maryland. As one of the largest seats of Black wealth in the country, the team can’t leave fast enough.
The coming fight for the Washington Commanders stadium bares a strong resemblance to one of Puget Sound’s most recent gifts to the nation – Amazon’s search for HQ2. As one recalls, the company engaged in a years-long, billion dollar version of The Bachelor as hundreds of jurisdictions threw budget busting combinations of tax credits, free land, and affection towards the company in return for the promise of a corporate jobs. In the end, Amazon found that HQ2 was really in the journey itself and expanded their existing footprints in Northern Virginia and Bellevue.
Which is a reminder that the DMV does owe the Pacific Northwest. Besides the jobs, Amazon will be accompanying the expanded Arlington campus with one if its famous sculptural buildings. You’re welcome, Virginians.
Of course, that does raise the question of what any jurisdiction gets from these regional fights for relocated jobs, or a prestige building, or a money-sink athletic venue. When a team or corporation decides its moving, they are already showing their fickleness. And when they leave in turn, well, they were who we thought they were. We just didn’t believe ourselves.
Maybe the biggest gift the DMV can offer is keeping Dan Snyder and his newly minted Commanders. Instead of the relocated football team we will accept the reminder of how stupid beyond words it is to fight over relocated jobs within a region. These sibling rivalries end up with everyone bloodied and punished with no real benefit to show. Just like a 7-10 football season.
Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.