In football more than any other sport, space is considered a key factor in what makes a good place to put a stadium. The venues are meant to hold upwards of 60,000 or more, and lots of room for parking is important so that people can bring their tricked-out vehicles and tailgate. Usually such space for football stadiums are more likely to be found out in the suburbs, or at least away from the city center, and so that’s where you can find many of the NFL’s stadiums.
Washington’s football stadium falls into this category. FedEx Field is just outside the District’s boundaries in Landover, Md.; it’s a huge stadium, one of the largest capacity-wise in the NFL; and its parking lot is pretty big. But talk to a few Redskins fans and you’ll quickly get the sense that they don’t really love their stadium — it’s just, you know, there, and since that’s where their team plays, they live with it. There’s probably a good reason for it — though it was crumbling even before the Skins left and it was the smallest by capacity in the NFL by that time, the old RFK Stadium is beloved by most fans. In fact, despite FedEx Field having only been around since the late ’90s, there’s already talk of the team moving on, perhaps back to the District, maybe even to the RFK site.
FedEx Field, as Mrs. Fan and I discovered during our visit to D.C., is a perfectly serviceable venue in which to watch football. But there are a few things that we noticed that, if we were die-hards going to 10 games a year here, we might see as big problems, too.
- The Approach
Maybe it’s because we’re big transportation nerds, but getting to FedEx Field is the biggest problem with it in our minds. The pregame and postgame traffic situation looked like an absolute nightmare. Even though the stadium sits about a mile from the Capital Beltway, the roads leading into the stadium grounds are windy and not really wide enough to handle that volume of cars. Add in the fact that this was a Monday night game (in the preseason, yes, but the stadium was still close to full) in which fans had to deal with regular commuters, and we saw a lot of cars at a standstill both during our entrance and our exit.
(An aside: Our previous visit to FedEx Field happened 10 years prior. It was for a college football game on a Saturday night, but it sold out the stadium and the “home” team that night was Virginia Tech, a three-hour drive away. We drove and parked in a satellite lot about a mile and a half away, then took a shuttle bus run by the local transit authority to the game. Afterward, we discovered that seemingly half the stadium was in line for a bus, and we waited more than two hours for one since we had no idea how to get back to our car by walking. In the end, we were finally in our cars driving out at close to 3 a.m. — the game had ended around midnight. Oh, and there was STILL traffic on the Beltway at that time, presumably from the game. Now, that was a decade ago, and you’d hope that such logistical difficulties would have been smoothed out, but we didn’t take the opportunity to find out.)
For this trip, we took Metro to the game, which isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. From central D.C., you have to take the Blue or Silver line to the Morgan Boulevard station, then walk a mile north along a rather hilly road to the game. It wasn’t great, but judging by the number of fans we saw using this method — trains both to and from the game were packed, as was the sidewalk leading in — and the number of cars we saw slowly crawling into and out of the stadium parking lot as we walked by, we were glad to have the alternate method.
- The Build-Up
Hope you like tailgating, because if you arrive at the stadium early, you’re either doing that or heading inside. There’s not a whole lot around the stadium worth mentioning, unless it’s far enough away that you’ll need transportation to get to the stadium afterward. Along Morgan Boulevard, the street we walked between the Metro station and the stadium, we saw nothing but residences (and I’m sure the people who live there were thrilled by all the bottles and other trash people were leaving on their lawns and doorsteps on their way to the game).
You do have a few shopping centers, including the Largo Town Center about a mile to the east, nearby. Fans do park there and walk to FedEx Field, but for a charge.
- The Ambiance
FedEx Field is big — 79,000 people big, to be exact — and it’s got pretty much everything you’d expect a sports venue to have these days. What it lacks, though, is character, and that’s likely what most Redskins fans don’t like about the place — especially if they’re old enough to remember when the team played at RFK. It really is your typical behemoth concrete structure without much in the way of charm. I’ll also echo what fans said in the link above about typically cold customer service — no one was downright rude to me, but you get the sense that the ushers and crowd control staff are just too eager to tell you what you’re not allowed to do.
That said, sightlines don’t seem to be too bad — we had seats halfway up the upper deck, right on the 50-yard line. We felt we could see everything but it was bordering on being too high, so I can only imagine what the folks in the extreme nosebleeds were seeing. Perhaps the Redskins’ best attempt at recapturing the old RFK feel is the presence of an official band, which sits behind one of the end zones, but frankly I didn’t even notice they were there until halftime. Someone put some mics on those guys!
Having eaten a fairly big meal in D.C. proper before heading over, we didn’t really plan on visiting the concession stands during the game. But the presence of Yuengling changed our minds about beer — even at $9.75 a cup, it was still worth it to us West Coasters who can’t get Yuengling where we live. Then in the second half, I noticed that local icon Ben’s Chili Bowl operated a stand on the upper deck. It was halfway around the stadium from where we were sitting, but I gladly made the trek to try a half-smoke “all the way” (with chili, mustard and onions). It was pretty good, though I actually think you can appreciate the half-smoke (a combo beef-pork sausage that has some kick to it) more without all the chili smothering it. Besides those two things, your concessions options range from Johnny Rockets to the standard hot dogs and popcorn. Nothing really to scream about.
Despite it being preseason, there was still some hype to this game with the Browns and their media-darling rookie QB in town, and it generally being a nationally televised Monday night game anyway. Sure enough, that media-darling rookie QB gave people something to talk about, but we missed the moment as we were walking around the stadium at the time. There was plenty to see around FedEx Field, but not a whole lot to remember.
1600 FedEx Way
Landover, MD 20785
All times local
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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Texas Longhorns at Maryland Terrapins Football
Saturday, September 1, 2018
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