Commanders acquire 200 acres of land in Va. for potential new stadium

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The Washington Commanders recently spent about $100 million to acquire about 200 acres of land in Woodbridge, Va., as a potential site for its new stadium, a person familiar with the team’s venue plans confirmed.

In previously detailed planning documentsthe Commanders showed interest in two Prince William County sites: one along Interstate 95 in Woodbridge and another near the Potomac Shores Golf Club in Dumfries.

If the Commanders build a stadium in Woodbridge, it would be about 23 miles from the US Capitol building. This would be nearly double the 11-mile distance from the US Capitol to the team’s current stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and the third-furthest distance from a city center to a stadium in the NFL behind San Francisco (42 miles ) and New England (28).

The Commanders purchase, while a signal the franchise is serious about Woodbridge, doesn’t mean the move is a done deal. The team’s stadium search has seemingly narrowed to five sites — Woodbridge; Dumfries; a quarry near Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va.; RFK Stadium in Washington; and a site near FedEx Field — and the acquisition of land in Virginia could ultimately be a negotiating tactic.

A Commanders spokesman declined to comment.

“No decision has been made on a new stadium in Prince William County,” Christina Winn, executive director of Prince William County Department of Economic Development, said in a statement. “As far as we understand, the team is exploring all of their options, including where they currently own land.

“While this news doesn’t mean the team has officially chosen Prince William County, we look forward to engaging with the team to ensure any development opportunity would be a good fit for the community and there is a positive economic and fiscal benefit to the county ,” she continued.

In fact, Commanders owner Daniel Snyder already owns a similar amount of land, more than 200 acres, at the FedEx Field site. The organization has discussed similar plans for a “mini-city” with Maryland legislators with a state-of-the-art stadium anchoring a large entertainment complex with restaurants, retail and housing. The state has a plan to spend $400 million to develop the area around FedEx Field but not build the stadium itself.

The team has at times indicated interest in returning to the RFK Stadium site in Washington, but the District’s leaders have been unable to introduce legislation to make the federally owned land a viable option for several reasons, including financing.

On Monday, the news of the purchase, which was first reported by ESPN, came as Virginia’s legislators got word to return to Richmond June 1 to vote on a proposed state budget. That will be their last opportunity to vote on Stadium Authority legislation, which, like the budget, was carried into a special session after the General Assembly failed to wrap up its work in the regular session that concluded in March. Legislators tasked with hammering out differences between rival House and Senate stadium bills indicated last week that negotiations were still underway.

The Virginia purchase did not dilute hope from Maryland lawmakers that the team would remain in Landover. Maryland lawmakers this spring approved investing $400 million in the area around FedEx Field, money to dismantle the existing stadium and build amenities that could anchor a mini-city concept. The cash will be spent regardless of whether the Commander’s relocate, but Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s), who represents the community near the stadium, said he hoped the $400 million was just the beginning of an incentive package for the team.

“I want it to be the beginning of the conversation,” Lewis said. “Of course I’d like them to stay and invest… But if they’re going to go, then fine.”

The Commanders have been playing at FedEx Field since 1997 but have been shopping for a new stadium option for several years. The team is obligated to play in Landover until at least 2027.

Erin Cox contributed to this report.

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