Breaking News
More () »

DC Council split over financing Commanders return to RFK site as Caps, Wizards, Nats ask what about us?

Monumental Sports and the Nationals are asking for millions in upgrades as some on the DC Council turn their attention to new Commanders stadium.

WASHINGTON — With D.C. making real progress toward getting long-term control of the RFK site in Southeast, District leaders may soon have to decide if they want to finance a new Washington Commanders stadium there.

“I think we have to incentivize them to come,” said Councilmember Trayon White. “We’re not going to do everything. But we believe they want to be here. We want them to be here.”

But Nationals, owned by the Lerner family, and Wizards and Capitals owned by Monumental Sports, are saying: what about us?

“Monumental Sports is already here,” said Council Chair Phil Mendelson. “And we have partnered with them with financial support in the past. But we should continue to do that. It's an important facility, the Nationals stadium we own and therefore we have a financial obligation to maintain that property.”

“There is no football team here right now,” Mendelson said.

A D.C. official told WUSA9 that Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis is in negotiations with the city to finance major upgrades at Capital One Arena. But he’s also considering moving the Wizards and Capitals to a new, Northern Virginia home and how much D.C. is willing to pay for in upgrades to 29-year-old Cap One could impact his decision.

Across town, Nationals Park turned 15 years old in April and the team has gone back and forth with the city about who is going to pay for renovations there including a new high-tech scoreboard.

Some on DC Council believe those three franchises, not the Commanders, are where the city should be putting its money.

“Listen, I am pulling for the team on Sundays,” said Councilmember Charles Allen. “It is an exciting time to see new owners – see Dan Snyder get out of here – see the team winning on the field. That's good news. Building an NFL stadium though is not the right decision for the District when I don’t have unlimited resources.”

But Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is leading the charge for a Commanders return to D.C., has asked the Department for Planning and Economic Development to commission a study to find effective ways to fund all these stadium and arena projects. And sources at DMPED told WUSA9 they are just days away from finalizing the deal to get that study done.

Bowser believes the city can realistically finance it all, without hurting taxpayers.

“Listen, we have sports, we supported sports, we brought Major League Baseball to Washington, D.C. – all of those criticisms existed,” Bowser said. “We built a stadium, we built a World Series Champion at that stadium among other investments that we've made. So, there are always ways to make investments that have a payoff for the city. And we know that world class sports have a payout for the city.”

Councilmember Christina Henderson said she’s open to the Commanders discussion, but focused on the franchises that are already in the District.

“I think that's the responsible thing for us to do is to consider all of our options that are on the table,” Henderson said. “But at the end of the day, again, it's going to be about priorities ... We really have to focus on the teams that we currently have in the District and shoring up to make sure that they remain. The dollars and cents only go but so far.”

Henderson said until D.C. officially controls the RFK site, conversations about the Commanders return to D.C. is premature. But with Virginia and Maryland fully committed to pitching the Commanders on building their new stadium in those states, the District will have to be ready to get in the game as soon as it can.

RELATED: Congressional hearing on bill allowing Commanders stadium at RFK happening this week

RELATED: 'Why as a city would we pay for a shiny toy?' | Amid RFK stadium excitement, some local residents are pushing back

Before You Leave, Check This Out