This week we covered a couple of topics on the Reacts survey. The first had to do with the approach that fans want to see from the new owners following completion of the purchase of the Commanders from Dan & Tanya Snyder.
Since the end of the regular season, as the sale has seemed more and more likely to eventuate, fans and media members have increasingly discussed what comes next. Three topics, among others, have been prominent in social media:
- Cleaning house (firing front office or coaching personnel)
- Executing a plan for a new stadium (FedEx lease ends in 2027)
We actually dealt with the rebranding question in a December Reacts poll in which 77% of those responding to the survey wanted the new owners to re-brand as soon as it was practical. Reasonable people can disagree on when that is, and there is certainly a vocal element among the fans who favor the “just win and the name will be fine” argument, but there are very few people who love Dan Snyder’s final gift to the fan base.
Three targets usually top the list of those who advocate for the new owners to emulate what Dan Snyder did when he took over in 1999 by immediately firing a number of top people. Fans mostly seem to aim at head coach Ron Rivera (usually suggesting he be replaced by Eric Bieniemy), GM Martin Mayhew, or team president Jason Wright. Because of the practicalities of preparing for the football season, most people seem to have accepted that the timing is not right to fire Ron Rivera; however, replacing a GM in May is not at all unheard of in the NFL, and some would argue that there’s never a bad time to fire a team president if he isn’t doing a good job.
Still, however loud those voices might be that have been calling for immediate change, the quieter (if not quite silent) majority prefers that the incoming owners slow their roll and avoid the kind of personnel tempest that Dan Snyder created when he got rid of Charley Casserly and a host of other executives and staff as he walked in the door of Redskins headquarters in 1999. In fact, a whopping 78% of those who took the Reacts survey said that the new owners should take their time and get to know the situation without making any big changes prior to the end of the Commanders 2023 season.
It’s hard to see a lot of downside with this measured approach. Getting through the upcoming season with the current coaching staff and front office group in place will allow for a thorough evaluation of everyone, and if any metaphorical blood is to be spilled, waiting until January when the rest of the NFL is chopping and changing has its advantages.
The new stadium
In the Reacts survey, I opted not to ask about the preferred location of the stadium, as I didn’t think there’d be much to be learned from that exercise. I was probably right.
According to a Washington Post Poll conducted between Feb 17-27, 2023, 44% or area residents want the #Commanders stadium to be built in Washington DC.— George Carmi (@Gcarmi21) April 20, 2023
23% prefer that the stadium is built in Maryland
While, 20% would like the stadium built in Northern Virginia. #HTTC pic.twitter.com/8qwU1IML2r
While the poll dates back to mid-February, when the Washington Post asked residents of Virginia, Maryland and DC where they wanted the stadium to be located, the most popular answer (44%) was that the team should return to the District of Columbia (specifically, to the RFK site, I imagine), with the balance of respondents split fairly equally between MD and VA.
In this week’s Reacts survey, I decided to focus on the ‘style’ of stadium that fans preferred to see the new owners design and build. This is the exact wording of the options that were offered in the poll:
- Replace FedEx Field and Ashburn with a giant state-of-the-art stadium & team headquarters similar to the Cowboys AT&T Stadium
- Replace FedEx Field with a cozier state-of-the-art venue similar to the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium
- Put up a “throwback” RFK-style stadium that puts a premium on noise and intimidation over technology & size, preferably on the current RFK Stadium site
- An integrated shopping, dining and entertainment experience that is a 7-day-a-week, year-round economic center
- Something else
I was surprised at the results, though, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been. With 44% of respondents in the Washington Post poll preferring a return to the DC location, I guess it makes sense that about half of those responding to our Reacts poll this week would like to see the owners design and build a ‘throwback’ RFK-style stadium designed to be both intimate and intimidating. In fact, the day after Hogs Haven published the poll questions, local sports media personality Rick Snider posted a video calling for a more modern version of RFK’s “bouncing bleachers” to be designed into the new stadium. This was not the first time I’d seen the idea; I read it in an article (maybe written by Snider) a few years ago.
Personally, I had expected fans to opt for the more modern hi-tech stadium modeled on SoFi stadium in LA or Allegiant stadium in Vegas that would appeal to younger fans and carry the franchise into the second half of the 21st century, but then, this is a fan community that is strongly rooted in the glory days of the 1980s and 90s. We love our burgundy & gold, our marching band, offensive linemen and grass fields. The survey results shouldn’t have surprised me.
Priorities in stadium design
The final question in our Reacts poll this week allowed each respondent to choose one (and only one) priority for stadium design.
For a fan base that has had to struggle with a number of issues at FedEx Field for the past quarter century, it’s probably no surprise that the top priority was Great Accessibility (25%).
Right behind that, however, were the related items of Overall Comfort and Low Cost Gameday Experience.
Taken together, these three priorities paint a picture of a stadium that is designed with fans in mind — easy to get to, comfortable, and affordable.
Fans seem perfectly content to forgo expensive options, eschewing options like player locker rooms and medical facilities, high technology scoreboards, and a moat that might cost the owners a bit of cash that they might want to get back in the form of higher ticket prices.
The one feature that seemed to get a bit ‘stuck in the middle’ is the question of a dome or retractable roof. At 11%, it got reasonable support, but I wonder what the economies are for covering a stadium in a mid-Atlantic location for 8 or 9 home games per year played between September and January. This is an item that the stadium designers (and those paying for it) need to think carefully about.
These are fairly brutish options to have in a survey on these topics; they allow for no precision or nuance, but that is why we have a comments section at Hogs Haven, and why we constantly encourage members to use it. We got some great feedback in the comments section of the survey article.
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