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Commanders stadium financing bill is losing support of some Virginia lawmakers

Fairfax State Senator Chap Petersen will vote against the plan after initially supporting it, calls Commanders "a team with no tradition, and pretty much no fans."

FAIRFAX, Va. — A plan to help fund a Washington Commanders stadium in Northern Virginia could be in danger of being sacked by lawmakers in Richmond.

WUSA9 has learned owner Daniel Snyder is losing support for a bill that would give him hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to move the team to the Commonwealth.

“I grew up a Redskins fan, and next to my wife, Sharon, it’s the love of my life,” said state Sen. Chap Petersen (D- Fairfax), who gave up his season tickets in 2019 after 22 years.

Petersen said times and his opinion of the team have changed.  

“I'm not standing up against anybody,” Petersen said. “I think I'm just mentioning something that perhaps is obvious, but nobody wants to talk about, which is the Washington Commanders are not the Washington Redskins. And they're not the institution, the icon, that we had in this community for 80 years. They are effectively a team with no tradition, and pretty much no fans ... I don't think they're a viable long-term partnership candidate for the state.”

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In January, Petersen voted in favor of a plan to give Snyder $1 billion in future stadium tax revenues to build in Northern Virginia when the legislation passed out of the finance committee he sits on. But as sexual harassment and financial mismanagement allegations stacked up against Snyder and his front office, the proposal has seemingly lost support.

First, it was slashed from a billion dollars in taxpayer funding to roughly $300 million. And now the bill is seemingly in limbo altogether. If lawmakers approve a budget on June 1 and adjourn for the session without voting on the stadium funding plan, the bill dies.

When asked about his change of heart, Petersen -- who was named 2021 legislator of the year by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for his focus on business -- said he no longer believes the Washington Commanders will be good for business.

RELATED: Taxpayer money or billionaire profit share: Debate continues over Virginia plans to host Commanders stadium

“I think that there continues to be negative publicity," And I want to be clear, that's not what's driving my decision,” Petersen said. “I just have concerns that this team, instead of increasing their fan support is going in the opposite direction. If they can't draw fans in Northern Virginia, then eventually they're going to have to move elsewhere and we're going to be stuck with a very large public works project without an anchor tenant.”

According to data obtained by WUSA9 from the consumer research firm Nielsen Scarborough, support for the Commanders hit an all-time low in 2021, with just 29% of adults in the D.C. television market calling themselves a fan of the team.

But supporters of the stadium bill -- like Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell, who represents Prince William County where the Commanders just obtained a purchase option on 200 acres as a possible stadium site -- remain confident the stadium would bring an economic boost.

 “I’ve never heard of an NFL franchise actually failing before,” Surovell said. “It’s a club that a lot of people try to get into because these franchises tend to be pretty profitable. So that’s not really a concern of mine.”

Surovell said the projections he has been shown estimate the new stadium would generate about a billion dollars in tax revenue for the state and about a billion dollars of tax revenue for the county where it is built. But even he doesn’t know if the legislation will pass.

“There has been a lot of things that have happened in the last two months,” Surovell said. "And I don’t know where the votes are in the caucus right now.”

The Washington Commanders continue to stress – both publicly and privately – the team has not made any final decisions about the stadium location, and are still considering Maryland and the District in addition to Virginia.

RELATED: Fairfax State Senator calls Commanders AG Investigation 'publicity crap'

RELATED: Prince William County supervisor stresses no proposed Commanders site presented to board yet

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