The Washington Commanders have bought a couple hundred acres of land in Prince William County, Virginia, reports ESPN’s John Keim, citing an anonymous source with knowledge of the purchase. Keim’s report on ESPN put this land in the town of Dumfries; JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington says it’s in Woodbridge. In any case, the thinking is that this land might be intended as the site of a future stadium, as well as, presumably, the grim bougie chain-retail encrustation typically associated with new sports arena development.
Very probably this is just a leverage move by the franchise. The Commanders have been seeking a new stadium deal from various D.C.-area municipalities, including the city of D.C. itself, for years; buying, or appearing to have bought, land for a stadium in Virginia is likely meant to spook one of those municipalities into panicking and offering a sweet deal, lest it lose out. Commanders fans who live within the Capital Beltway—that is to say, those who live in the actual town whose name the Commanders bear and market—and in Maryland had better hope it’s just a bluff, anyway. Otherwise they will never see their dogshit professional football team in person, ever again.
It is not enough to simply tell you that Woodbridge is 23 miles away, and Dumfries 32, from the center of the city of Washington D.C., or that they’re roughly 12 and 20 miles, respectively, south of even the nearest point on the Capital Beltway, or that they’re likewise 12 and 20 miles, respectively, from the nearest stop on the D.C. Metro rail system. Even these alarming Google Maps images do not paint the complete picture, for those not familiar with the metropolitan D.C. area.
The important thing is that these are not just (a lot of) miles. These are (a lot of) southbound Interstate 95 miles, in Northern Virginia. That right there is a strong contender for the title of the worst stretch of road in these damn United States. Do you see the red and yellow along the highlighted route from D.C. to Woodbridge, or D.C. to Dumfries? That represents an all-day, all-night, year-round parking lot. I would say that the various highway authorities might just as well go ahead and paint the actual blacktop red and yellow, except that there is never, at any point, any portion of that stretch of highway that is not covered by idling automobiles. As anyone who has ever tried to sneak out of town for a summer beach vacation can tell you, Beltway drivers can get on southbound I-95 at the infamous Mixing Bowl interchange in Springfield before sunrise, on a freaking Saturday, average a cool 15 miles per hour for the next three hours of their trip, and wish they were dead before the sun has cleared the treetops on their left. For those who live in D.C. and must take I-395 just to get out to the Mixing Bowl, they might as well hang mailboxes from the sides of their cars. Woodbridge might as well be Bermuda. Dumfries might as well be France.
A typical NFL game runs three hours. Then there is getting into and out of a giant parking lot (particularly if, for example, the stadium is many congested interstate highway miles from the nearest mass transit stop, requiring virtually all attendees to drive their cars to and from it). Putting the football stadium a two-hour stop-and-go nightmare highway drive from the city that is the population center of its fanbase (to say nothing of its being the team’s nominal home) means transforming any given game into, at least, an all-day affair for anyone wishing to attend it, if not an outright weekend-long trip. To Woodbridge! To Dumfries! I do not wish to bag on these perfectly fine or anyway not especially atrocious places, but no plausible retail mall is going to turn that into an appealing prospect for someone who lives in, for example, Falls Church, Va., and already cannot even drive the distance from one side of this paragraph to the other in less than half an hour, to say nothing of getting all the way to freaking Woodbridge.
I really cannot stress enough just how improbable it is that any plausible normal person living in either the city of D.C. or the state of Maryland—or even in any relatively close-in D.C. suburbs on the Virginia side of the Potomac River—could ever, ever ever ever, make a routine of going to Woodbridge or Dumfries to watch even a perennially successful and good Washington Commanders team in person. This simply would not ever happen! Expecting it would be not so different from, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers banking on a lot of game-day attendance from people who live in Philadelphia. It would be like the Texans building a new stadium in rural Oklahoma, and expecting that a particularly rockin’ Applebees nearby will bring a lot of gameday traffic from Houston.
Very probably these are all reasons why this location will never actually contain a Washington Commanders stadium. Just as probably, they are reasons to be extremely skeptical that anybody within the Commanders organization sincerely intends this purchase as anything other than a lever for prying a stadium deal out of D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser. In that, they also ought to be reasons for Bowser herself not to feel any particular pressure: This is the equivalent of Dan Snyder holding a gun to his own crotch and threatening to shoot if he doesn’t get what he wants.
But also, this is the dumbest organization in American sports. Maybe they really do want to build a stadium there.