A House of Delegates panel quickly shot down two bills Wednesday that would have barred state subsidies for a new Washington Redskins stadium in Virginia and blocked localities from spending public money on professional sports facilities.
A House budget subcommittee voted 7-0 to lay the bills on the table, effectively killing them for the year.
Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, said he was inspired to file the legislation by research showing professional sports stadiums aren’t worth the millions of dollars that state and local governments are often asked to pony up to help teams build new facilities.
“Fans simply shift their spending habits from one kind of entertainment habit to another,” Webert said, adding that he sees stadium subsidies as a form of “corporate welfare.”
One of Webert’s bill’s would have created a compact with Maryland and Washington that would have all three competitors for a new Redskins stadium avoid a bidding war by agreeing not to offer the team tax breaks or other public incentives.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe made no secret of his efforts to lure the Redskins to Virginia, already home to the team’s headquarters and training facility. The team currently plays at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Webert argued taking public money off the table would boost Virginia’s competitive advantage by forcing the Redskins, which he called his “favorite team,” to look at other factors such as the tax environment and zoning laws.
The subcommittee voted down the bill with no discussion.
Lawmakers on the panel seemed more concerned with Webert’s other bill, which would have barred state and local governments from offering public incentives for stadiums beginning in 2019.
Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, said the bill casts “a pretty broad net” and asked if the bill would prevent the U.S. Olympic field hockey team from practicing at a stadium funded by his city.
“Olympians are technically not professionals,” Webert said.
The legislation could have complicated Richmond’s long-running quest to build a new stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the region’s minor league baseball team. Though no Richmond stadium proposal has come to fruition, the plans that have all included some form of public subsidy.
Del. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, said localities do stadium deals with the expectation that after the initial cost, the ventures will start generating local revenue within a few years.
“It’s a business decision,” Ingram said. “And this would bar localities from making that decision.”