Ahead of Washington's season opener against the Cardinals, Commanders.com sat down with Limited Partner Mark Ein to talk about upgrades to the stadium, fan excitement and his lifelong love for the Burgundy & Gold.
1. Sunday's game kicks off the season-long tagline "Welcome Home." As we step into this new era of Commanders football, what does "Welcome Home" mean to you?
"Our entire motivation in becoming owners was to restore this franchise to its place as arguably the most important and most unifying organization in our community and region. We know how much the team and the franchise has meant to people for generations.
We knew how much hunger there was for people to re-establish their relationship with this franchise, but even as optimistic as we were, we couldn't imagine the speed and magnitude with which people have embraced us and the team. We feel so much gratitude to the community for welcoming us that we want to show how grateful we are to welcome everyone back, and that's why "Welcome Home" is the theme.
Throughout the season, we are going to show that gratitude to our fans when we are out in the community but, most importantly, we are going to show it during gameday with a whole series of programs to create an elevated fan experience and to have spirit of generosity with our fanbase."
2. From significant back-of-house stadium improvements to a food & beverage discount program to a brand-new pregame ritual, fans can expect a whole new experience when they step into FedExField this season. Why were moves like this so important for our ownership group? What's at the heart of them?
"We want people to come to the stadium and have a great time. We want them to cherish gamedays with their families just like we did as kids. We always hope that we win, but even when we don't, you still can have an extraordinary experience with your family and friends that you will never forget.
It all starts with a perpetual commitment to creating the best fan experience that we can. That doesn't end after this season. Particularly important this year is to go the extra mile to show people how grateful we are for the embrace that we have felt, and also to make it fun, exciting and enjoyable when people come back.
We have only had five or six weeks since we took over, but, even in that time, I think we've found ways to make a meaningful difference. There is a whole series of things that will be introduced for the Home Opener and then throughout the course of the season that will make gameday a great experience and reflect that gratitude that we feel."
3. What can fans expect in terms of stadium upgrades and fan experience improvements?
"Let's start with opening day. We are going to have a fantastic pregame celebration concert with my friend DJ Kool and Sirius Company Go-Go band in Legends Plaza with some of the franchise's Legends there going around greeting fans. There have been some visual aesthetic components implemented around the site to have the excitement build even before fans enter the stadium.
When fans enter the stadium, they will get a cool Rollabanna that can be waved throughout the game. There are some twelve new and enhanced food and beverage partners, and then as a token of our gratitude, half price hot dogs and sodas in a cool souvenir cup on opening day and other food and beverage specials throughout the season. There will be an amazing pregame experience in the bowl, with some surprises, so people should get to their seats as early as they can.
When fans leave, they will get a very special commemorative pennant marking this milestone day in franchise history. And at the end of the game, we have been working hard with local governments to make the exit from the stadium a much better experience. We have a real commitment to making the ingress and egress meaningfully better than it has been in the past. Towards that goal, we have some things we are already going to be able to do on Sunday, and then we have additional initiatives that should hopefully continue to make a real difference over time.
I hope that when people come that they will see the gratefulness that we feel. And all of the things we are doing are guided by input from the fans, so we encourage people to continue to give us their feedback so that we can continue to make this better and better."
4. Fan excitement has been on a whole new level since your group has taken over. As fans yourselves, what does it mean to you to be the stewards of this resurgence?
"It is hard to describe growing up as little kids in Chevy Chase like Josh and I did, cheering for the team, going to RFK and one day being the people who are the stewards of the franchise, who people are looking to bring it back to its glory.
It is a great honor, but it is also a huge responsibility that weighs very heavily on everyone. We embrace the challenge, and it's a very personal commitment that everyone has made to make sure that, when fans come to the games, that they have an extraordinary experience both on opening day and for the rest of time.
This community deserves the best franchise in football. They used to have it, and we are going to make sure that they have it again."
5. You've been a Washington fan your entire life. What does this franchise mean to you?
"This franchise represents our youth. The most enduring memories of my childhood were spent going to games with my dad. Riding down on the Metro and cheering for this team, sitting in the end zone at RFK in section 320, row 5, seats 19 and 20, waiting in long lines for the concession stand that sold the best French Fries in the world and then sharing our stories from the games with of all our friends the next day.
That's what we think about all the time: What kind of experience do we want to create for the younger generations, so that when they are grown up, they can look back on our games as fondly and as profoundly as we did?"
6. In thinking about the sold-out crowd that will experience this historic day on Sunday, what home gameday memories still stick with you? Did you have a particular gameday outfit or any favorite team paraphernalia?
"I had the team belt buckle and jacket that I wore all the time and every night I slept on a pillowcase that had the team's helmet on it. My childhood bedroom was filled with memorabilia from the team. And I actually still have ticket stubs and an autographed picture of Sonny Jurgensen in my office at home.
The 1982 NFC Championship game against Dallas is probably my most profound memory. That game sent us to the Super Bowl, and that's a day we will never forget. That's also a day we are so deeply, deeply committed to getting the team and the fans to experience again."