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 we discovered, 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.
For more on visiting the Washington, D.C., area, check out our Washington city guide.
- 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 our visit was a Monday night game 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.
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.
This method wasn’t great, but judging by the number of fans we saw going this way — 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 about a mile to the east in the nearby town of Largo. Fans do park in this area and walk to FedEx Field, but for a charge. Fun fact; the old Capital Centre arena, once home to the Washington Capitals and Washington Bullets (now Wizards) before the venue known as Capital One Arena was built, stood in this area before being demolished to make way for a shopping center.
- 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.
We’ll also echo what fans said in the link above about typically cold customer service — no one was downright rude to us during our visit, but we got 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 we 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!
Like many stadiums around the country, FedEx Field has worked to improve its concessions offerings in recent years. There are a few standards worth mentioning — for example, Ben’s Chili Bowl, a D.C. institution, serves its “Half-Smokes” (basically a hot dog that’s split, grilled, and topped with chili).
Several other brand names operate out of FedEx Field, such as Famous Dave’s (barbecue) and Firehouse Subs (sandwiches). As of the 2019 season, celebrity chef Guy Fieri is lending his name to a chicken tenders stand on the main concourse as well. And though it’s associated more with northern neighbor Baltimore, pit beef sandwiches can also be found here. For a full concessions guide, click here.