By Peter Galuszka
There’s something strange here: Virginia loses a major oil company and 2,100 high-paying jobs but we get to spend $6 million or more in state and local taxpayers money to keep the hapless Washington Redskins in the Old Dominion instead of Maryland and get them to practice a few weeks a year in Richmond.
The loss of ExxonMobil’s Fairfax office at a 118-acre campus is a big one. It had been part of Mobil, then-headquartered in Northern Virginia before it was bought by Exxon in 1998. The move closer to Exxon’s Houston center was perhaps inevitable but, coupled with coming defense cuts, it shows the lean times ahead for the state.
The headlines, instead, read of the great coup of jobs-conscious Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who, while losing ExxonMobil, is spending big bucks to get the Redskins to stay in Ashburn and practice a few weeks a year in Richmond, which is not known for football and at the moment doesn’t have appropriate facilities to handle the Hogs.
Although McDonnell says he wants to keep budget spending tight, he is tosses plenty at the ‘Skins. The move involves $6 million in government money, including $4 million over two years from the state, a payment by Loudoun County of $2 million and $400,000 from Richmond.
Why so? Presumably, the public money is being used to keep heathen Marylanders and even worse people in the District from getting the Redskins who will still be headquartered in Ashburn. The Governor’s office also says it would be useful getting the football team more exposure in Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. A few other reasons could include that McDonnell’s wife used to be a Redskins cheerleader and George Allen, a prominent Republican running for Senator, comes from a Redskins family. His dad used to be coach. Speaking on WRVA, McDonnell claimed that the Skins generate $200 million in revenue for the state and their loss would be a “huge economic hit” even though the half smokes, beer and nachos are sold at the Skins home stadium in Maryland.
The government money seems a lot to pay for intrastate marketing for a football team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be a place for the ‘Skins to play in Richmond.
The University of Richmond uses a small stadium for its Spiders but the school hasn’t been asked about housing the Redskins for a few summer weeks. The much-larger Virginia Commonwealth University doesn’t even have a football team. The city’s baseball stadium, the Diamond, is so decrepit that the Triple A team associated with the Atlanta Braves moved to Georgia a couple of years ago. The city now has a Double A team but it, too, makes noises about moving because of the stadium.
So, there are a lot of questions about this Redskins play. There’s no question about ExxonMobil. It’s a big loss.