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Redskins To Stay In Ashburn, Move Training Camp To Richmond
(Originally posted 6/6/12, 12:23 p.m.; Updated 6/6/12, 5:17 p.m.)
The Washington Redskins and Gov. Bob McDonnell jointly announced on Wednesday a plan to renovate the team’s headquarters in Ashburn while moving its summer training camp to Richmond beginning next year.
McDonnell pledged $4 million in state money to the team, which will shortly begin a $30 million improvement to Redskins Park – an increasingly outdated 35-acre complex that was constructed in 1992 following a move from Herndon.
As part of the agreement, the Redskins will move their training camp to an as-yet-unidentified location in Richmond for the next eight years.
“That was a package that we put together to keep the Washington Redskins here,” McDonnell said at a press conference outside the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond that was also attended by Richmond mayor Dwight Jones.
Loudoun County will contribute $500,000 to the team as part of an incentive to stay in Ashburn, while Richmond has $400,000 in its budget for improvements to an unidentified facility that would be used by the Redskins, which could potentially be for the renovation and use of 83-year-old City Stadium.
Maryland and Washington also offered incentives to the Redskins, and while those are generally kept confidential, McDonnell said that from what his administration can figure out, the other localities offered “significantly more” than Virginia’s package.
“What we have going for us is the fact that we have an incredibly business-friendly environment,” McDonnell said, acknowledging the $4 million in state funding is less than the $9 million a year in state and local tax revenue generated by the team. “It is a reasonable investment. We’ll get far more than $4 million in state tax dollars,” and had the team left Virginia, “there would be an immediate and sudden impact” on those revenues.
The Redskins had also been looking at alternative sites for their year-round training facilities, including in Fairfax, Bowie, Md. or even in Washington. Their stadium, FedEx Field, is located in Landover, Md., and is nearly an hour commute from Redskins Park.
“We love the location,” Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said in an interview with ESPN 980 radio, which, like the team, is owned by Dan Snyder. “There was no reason to find another location. We love the current Redskins Park. We’re just going to convert it to Redskins Park 3 in the same location.”
McDonnell, whose wife, Maureen, was once a Redskins cheerleader, said “a significant upgrade” will begin shortly at Redskins Park, with Allen telling the radio station he anticipates much of the construction happening within the main building’s existing walls.
The team began its own improvements to the complex late last year with the construction of an indoor practice “bubble,” an air-supported fabric structure that covers an artificial turf field. Players and coaches have occasionally conducted their offseason workouts in the bubble since returning to the area in mid-April.
“The mayor and I have had several conversations about what we’ll do for events and the future of the Washington Redskins, but I think at this time, in order to make it a more seamless transaction, instead of picking up roots and moving 60 players and 25 coaches and whatever else – Northern Virginia has been the home of the Washington Redskins,” Allen said. “We figured our best move was to stay here, keep it state-of-the-art and continue to look at other ways to improve our gameday experience [at the stadium].”
McDonnell said the Redskins have a big economic impact on Virginia. The team generates about $200 million in economic activity and $100 million annually in player salaries and pays $9.8 million a year in state and local taxes, and expansion of Redskins Park could generate over $50 million in total economic activity.
Jones said the announcement is “beyond exciting” and will “produce an … additional brand for the city as a sports designation.”
Richmond city officials say they’ll work with the team to find an appropriate venue in the city for the training camp, which typically begins in late July and continues through the first preseason game in mid-August.
City Stadium was the home of the University of Richmond’s football team through 2010, when it moved to Robins Stadium on campus. Virginia Commonwealth University, also in the city, does not have a football team; Sports Backers Stadium and The Diamond, home to the city’s Double A baseball team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, may also be possibilities, given the location and availability of parking.
Brian Eckert, the director of media and public relations for the University of Richmond, said the school was not involved in the talks between the state and the Redskins, but “as a good citizen of Richmond,” it would be receptive to hosting the camp.
“The things that we would have to look at would be, do we have the facilities that the Redskins need here?” Eckert said. “Can we share those with a Division I football program that we already operate? Can we fulfill their needs while still looking out for our own primary concerns, which are our teams? I’m sure if the Redskins wanted to come here, we would look at doing everything we could to make that happen.”
Moving training camp away from a team’s year-round headquarters is not uncommon, and the Redskins did so as recently as 2002. They held training camp at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. from 1963 through 1994 before moving to Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. from 1995 through 1999. The team returned to Dickinson College in 2001 and 2002 before settling at Redskins Park for the last nine years.
Mike Shanahan, who took over as the Redskins’ head coach prior to the 2010 season, has often expressed an interest in moving away from Ashburn for training camp in the interest of team camaraderie. The Denver Broncos, whom Shanahan coached from 1995 through 2008, held their training camp at the University of Northern Colorado for the first eight years of Shanahan’s tenure.
Nearly half of the teams in the NFL chose to conduct their training camp away from home last summer. The New York Giants recently completed a year-round facility adjacent to new MetLife Stadium and held training camp there last year, but also announced Wednesday they will return next month to Albany, N.Y., where they practiced every summer since 1996.
Making sure the Redskins didn’t head somewhere else in the area was a priority.
“We wanted to do everything we could to maintain that name here,” McDonnell said. “The Redskins are an economic engine for our state.”