The Washington Commanders proposed stadium in Virginia was already a boondoggle. Even before the Virginia state legislature paused its vote on the Commanders’ contentious stadium subsidy deal, support was dwindling. The Commanders know a little something about losing support. The team ranked 32nd in home attendance percentage last season, leaving approximately 30,000 seats vacant per game.
To complement their shrinking fanbase, the Commanders have begun planning for a shrunken stadium. Earlier reports that the team sought to build a 60,000-seat, domed stadium were too bullish. The latest details reveal stem from an economic impact analysis on the proposed stadium complex in Virginia. The plans, which were obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch disclosed that the Commanders plan to construct a 55,000 seat stadium. In contrast, the current stadium capacity at FedEx Field is 82,000.
If the Virginia legislature was concerned about the traffic on I-95 that a stadium in Woodbridge would generate, this is one way to get around that impasse. Why offer a winning franchise to attract fans back when you can plop the same poor product on the field to half the fanbase? If the team continues down that cycle, they’ll be playing out of Zoolander’s Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.
The most successful teams attract sellouts. Perennial losing has created a malaise around the Commanders. Consequently, Washington has struggled to fill the stadium with their own fans as the franchise has faded into mediocrity. A decade ago, FedEx Field was filled to 90 percent maximum capacity. In 2021, the average Commanders home game was filled to 64 percent of its max capacity.
That’s only because opposing fans occupied a large percentage of those seats. The Lions, at 79.9 percent, were the only other franchise below 85 percent.
Commanders team president Jason Wright confirmed the reports that the team will be Tiny House-hunting.
“We are much more likely to build the smallest venue in the NFL than the largest,” Wright told the Virginia Mercury.
The only thing that can save the Commanders from playing in a minor league ballpark is the Virginia legislature voting this albatross to hell and that the NFL has to approve all plans on financing on loan and project plans submitted by its 32 franchises. There’s a slither of hope that the league rejects a miniature stadium model for one of its marquee franchises as team owner Dan Synder faces possible expulsion from the league.
Attendance across professional sports prior to 2020 was beginning to slow down due to changing viewing habits and rising ticket costs. The pre-pandemic NFL average was 67,254 according to the Sports Business Journal. So why on earth is one of the NFL’s popular franchises based in a major metropolitan center constructing a stadium that seats 12,000 fewer seats than the average?
Washington just has to keep fans attentive for eight or nine Sundays per year. And why does it need a dome? This isn’t Buffalo. Washington doesn’t endure Siberian winters.
Chicago’s century-old Soldier Field is the NFL’s oldest monument and its smallest in terms of seating capacity. Dallas’ AT&T Stadium is the NFL’s largest with a maximum capacity of 100,000 including its extensive standing-room-only area.
Knowing Dan Snyder, he’ll pass the buck by hiking the price on tickets that are even more of a premium. The fan cost index calculates the cost of taking a family to an NFL game, including the cost of tickets, parking, and refreshments. Washington had the seventh-highest fan cost index in the NFL in 2021 according to Statista. One thing we can be sure of. The hits will just keep on coming for beleaguered Commanders fans.