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Why Should Virginians Pay for Youngkin's Billion-Dollar Stadium Project?
Maryland and D.C. are already bidding to saddle their taxpayers with a multi-billion dollar sinkhole. Don't we have other problems to address in Virginia first?
Every once in awhile, Glenn Youngkin just has to go out of his way to remind you of the disconnect between his way of living and the realities for the rest of Virginia.
On July 27th, Youngkin was asked point blank about the Virginia taxpayer’s interest in bringing the new Washington
Commanders Commies Redskins stadium to the Commonwealth. Youngkin’s answer?
“I think Virginia should be the best place to live, work, raise a family — and the best place to have a professional football team.”
Assuming this did not mean bringing communist kickball to Redskins training camp, the allusion could only have been to revive Virginia’s hopes to displace RFK Stadium as the next home of the Washington
Football Team WTF Redskins now that the old Jack Kent Cooke Stadium… er, FedEx Field… seems to have outlived its shelf life.
Of course, while Washington D.C. is both the local favorite and the Capitol Hill favorite, Maryland is loathe to part from both the tax revenue and the prestige of having the Redskins nearby — apart from the traffic, parking, time it takes to get to Raljon, the cost of tickets, the cost to eat there, the mental anguish of watching a 11-5 perform at 6-10 levels every year, and the long trip back home on a Sunday. Virginia — once having entertained Potomac Yard as a potential landing site for the now departed Redskins — now seems to be willing to throw its hat back into the ring now that Dan Snyder has sold his stake to Josh Harris and Mitchell Rales:
Josh Harris has been owner of the team for just more than a week, and he’s already in position to woo all three jurisdictions into bidding against each other to be the home of whatever replaces FedEx Field.
Easy, now. This process is back to ground zero, as it should be. This process is going to take a long time, as it should. This process can’t be based on romance. It has to be based in reality. Everyone calm down for a minute.
Here’s something to like about what Harris said last week, in an interview with The Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, about the stadium process: “We don’t really have answers coming in right now.” And from Mitchell Rales, Harris’s lead partner: “We have no idea where we’re going to build the stadium.”
Nothing better than an old school Battle of the Billionaires for landing rights to an NFL stadium — especially when it is state taxpayers who will inevitably foot the bill so that rich people can pay outrageous prices to see games the working class get to watch from their living rooms.
If they pay enough on NFL Ticket, of course.
One More Reminder: Youngkin Might Be Republican, But No Fiscal Conservative
Bear in mind here that we aren’t talking about something like Camden Yard, where the Baltimore stadium did more to revitalize the Inner Harbor in an era before brick and glass came to the rescue of iron and rust.
Nor are we talking about regional sports stadiums, embedded in places such as Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom or Boulevard District where the economic renaissance and cultural identity of the city would be immensely rewarded. Such city center projects are multi-faceted when they benefit business, restaurants, local quality of life, museums, history trails, and so forth.
Virginia in particular has no such city centers beyond Alexandria, which hardly requires the refinement of a massive taxpayer bath in order to resuscitate its downtown district.
Yet what taxpayers in Bristol, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Williamsburg, Danville and points further away from the Washington Beltway might want to ask? Why should already hard-pressed taxpayers subsidize a massive stadium project in a place too far from home for the benefit of six-figure or better salaries in Northern Virginia?
Just to remind people how tone deaf such a stadium deal is, the cost of tickets for a family of four in the nosebleed section is about $45. Parking will cost you an additional $55 if you are sparing, plus cost of gasoline might mean another $30. Food options start as low as $5, but you know how that goes — drop at least $20 per person if you are sparing.
Now I don’t know about you, but $200 in the nosebleed section isn’t chump change for most people. Want better seats? $25 for the endzone — in the preseason.
Regular season tickets? $100 per person in the nosebleed section if you are lucky. So a $200 day just turned into a $600 day. That’s three hours getting there, three hours there, and three hours back — toss in a few dollars more if you’re the sort of family that eats more than one meal a day.
See the problem here?
The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga might have it best here:
There’s something admirable about billionaires admitting they don’t have all the answers. The answers, at the moment, are unknowable.
That doesn’t mean the news this week wasn’t intriguing. But before we get to that, a reminder: Whether the Commanders’ new stadium ends up in the District, Maryland or Virginia, if it’s built with significant taxpayer funds, it’s a bad deal.
Watching sports is a rich man’s game. Most families can’t spare $600-$800 to watch the Washington Redskins at the stadium — and never could. Yet those are the very same people who will be asked to pay for this rich man’s past time, paid for with the working man’s dollar.
Yet the disconnect from those for whom $600-$800 is a fine day out with the family versus the difference between paying the rent or paying health insurance?
I’m sorry — but when did Republicans start walking away from kitchen table issues like that? And when did we start tolerating it? And when — for God’s sake — did we start believing as a party that the working class had to carry the avocations of the wealthy on their shoulders?
Let The Battle of the Billionaires Stay North of the Potomac
Now let it be known that I am not opposed to taxpayer funding of things connected to the common good.
Good roads, good schools, good jobs — all things vital to economic infrastructure. My definition probably extends farther than most: good museums, colleges and universities, research parks, even to extending bonds to regional projects and especially to those forging some sort of local identity in the Scrutonian sense of the idea.
Yet that goodwill stops cold and suddenly when a few well-heeled billionaires start funding projects designed to abuse the public trust for private entertainment only the well-to-do can afford.
If one requires an example of such largesse, one need go no further than Los Angeles, where the $5 billion SoFi Stadium has strung out taxpayers all for a few hundred thousand dollars of well placed donations:
It was clear there was going to be a fight on SoFi, and that billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams and the developer behind the stadium, was going to partner with a set of police and developer-friendly officials, led by Butts. Gentrification has been shown to increase policing in neighborhoods; a lawsuit alleged that it was a driving factor in the Louisville, Kentucky, police raid that killed Breonna Taylor, which the city has denied.
Butts made grandiose promises about how the project would revitalize the neighborhood. In 2019, he told a local newspaper that SoFi would lead to the “Genesis effect,” likening the stadium to the technological device in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” that could transform uninhabitable planets into land suitable for human colonization. He claimed that, without the stadium, Inglewood was “a city devoid of hope with no aspiration for the future.” He has also been highly supportive of building a new Clippers arena. But following the money made critics skeptical that revitalization was Butts’s true motive—Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who was pushing for the construction of the stadium, “donated more than $350,000 to a committee supporting Butts’s mayoral bid,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The games we play so that billionaires can play on the backs of millionaires.
Yet precisely because of this fact, we should be allergic to the point of hostile to projects where an already prosperous-yet-bored elite can cool their heels inside a publicly financed project where the public themselves could not even hope to access it — even if they saved up all year to do so.
That is the reality for most working families in Virginia.
While Governor Youngkin and those around him may not understand and are shielded from such realities, they are stark and painful for far too many, and it is cold — in fact, contemptuous — for our elected leaders to be so absolutely distant from their electorate (and their own party) as to think such an idea worthy of consideration much less public investment.
When the final number comes down, imagine what that number would do for a city such as Richmond, Petersburg, or Norfolk long impacted by the aftereffect of Massive Resistance.
Imagine the energy dumped into pursuing a 1-in-3 chance to woo a multi-billion dollar sinkhole invested instead into the Virginia Community College System.
Imagine the resources poured into public safety, teachers’ salaries, or calming the ever-increasing cost of our Terry Tolls and Lexus Lanes for roads we Virginians have already paid for.
This is what Virginians are owed — not showing off to Washington insiders by proving who has the most political muscle to pull a “professional football team” on their side of the Potomac, but rather actually doing what the Republican majority sent you to Richmond to do, sir.
One More Reminder: Governor First, POTUS Later
One remains hard pressed to understand what — if anything — is at Youngkin’s political core. His popularity numbers remain at 57%, which isn’t terribly high when compared to other state governors nor is it notable when correlated to Richmond’s proximity to Washington, where Youngkin’s popularity rises and falls based on Biden’s unpopularity.
Already, social conservatives remain distant and unimpressed by Youngkin’s lack of pro-life credentials or backbone, sticking by His Excellency if only to keep Democrats at bay.
Already cautious 2A advocates continue to reel in shock as the Youngkin administration declares war on hunting dogs — over half of the hunters in Virginia.
Even school choice — the marquee legislation of Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears — was defeated not by Senate Democrats but by the Governor’s Office for fear of being too controversial.
That’s legislation even Jeb Bush has the backbone to support.
Now fiscal conservatives — who are still stunned that businesses continue to take priority over taxpayers — get to see our hard earned $5 billion surplus dangled in front of the likes of the National Football League for a stadium that will certainly please those in Northern Virginia who can afford the entertainment but fails to consider the interests of those who elected Youngkin in the first place.
It’s Hail to the Redskins — not bail to the Redskins.
But what have we done for him lately, I suppose?
Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.