Richmond’s Redskins Deal Gets Even Weirder

By Peter Galuszka

The deal for the Washington Redskins to build a summer training facility gets richer, more one-sided and more questionable by the day.

The latest wrinkle, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch,  is that the City of Richmond will use money from its school and jail budgets to pony up a $10 million loan so the ‘Skins can start training in Richmond instead of Loudoun County next summer.

The dollars do add up. When the move was announced last summer, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said the state would pay $4 million over the next two years to move the Redskins summer training camp from Ashburn. Loudoun will pay $2 million over the next four years to help the NFL club refurbish its headquarters, which will stay in Ashburn while training moves south.

Richmond will add $400,000. It had originally been earmarked for upgrading an old stadium in the city for the Skins but now it will go as part of the $10 million “loan” to help the football team develop 17 acres near Richmond’s venerable, architecturally significant Union Stadium that is now a science museum. The field will be leased from the state .

But wait, that’s not all. Bon Secours hospitals intends to invest $40 million as part of the project, including building two football fields a medical office and other facilities. Bon Secours will pay $6.4 million in naming rights and in rent.

In exchange, Bon Secours gets what could be considered a very good deal on some choice property. It will get a 60-year-lease for $5,000 a year for four acres near its St. Mary’s Hospital not far from the training facility. The non-profit hospital group plans to use the acreage, known as the Westhampton School site, for a $24 million expansion of St. Mary’s. It will also invest $8.5 million to expand a hospital elsewhere in the city.

What kind of skin are the Redskins putting in the game? After all they are worth $1.3 billion and are the third-richest team in the NFL. Zero, it appears.

Good deal for the Skins But for everyone else it seems like a lot of money and   convolution for a facility that will operate only three weeks during the dog days of summer. Proponents, typically freshly re-elected Mayor Dwight Jones and members of Richmond’s business elite, including Michael Frazier, former head of financial firm Genworth, claim the deal, just endorsed by the City Council, will be a huge boon for the city. They expected thousands of tourists and fans will brave the summer humidity to watch the Redskins train. If they have kids, they can then go to the Science Museum, then perhaps Hardee’s or McDonald’s, and, if they sprain their ankle, they can go to one of the Bon Secours clinics.

Critics, such as former city councilman Manoli Loupassi, say the deal doesn’t make sense and may stink, notably the Bon Secours part for the Westhampton property. Annual payments will be probably well less than half of what most of us pay for our house mortgages or rents.

Proponent Frazier defended the arrangement this way:

“Sure, the city could sell the Westhampton site to the highest bidder for a few million dollars, as some suggest. But the proposed agreement instead yields over $40 million of investment, expands health services and generates new jobs and taxes at three different locations in Richmond. The city will continue to own the site, protecting future investments.”

Bearing Drift and sometime BR blogger Norm Leahy took that logic apart in this Bearing Drift post. He does it well, so click away.

The plan, of course, depends on so many thousand people who are willing to rent hotel rooms for a few days to watch the Redskins. For more strong and skeptical reporting, see this analysis by Scott Bass at Style Weekly.

City officials insist that taking $4 million from building a new jail and $5.6 million from building new schools is no big deal. But of course it is. The current jail is a mess and has been racked by cronyism and management problems. Richmond’s schools suffer the usual inner city problems and are nowhere near the level of Richmond’s suburban systems.

Another problem is that the other sports facility in town, baseball’s Diamond, badly needs renovation or replacement. The facility used by the Flying Squirrels, a farm club of the San Francisco Giants, is a major draw. There’s no question that fans support it but the Diamond’s failings prompted the Atlanta Braves to move their farm club to Georgia a few years ago. The Squirrels likewise may take flight if nothing is done.

The predicament is soooo Richmond. Despite its pretensions, the city has a lot of serious problems that it just doesn’t face. Its priorities are skewed. When some deal like the Skins comes, the city turns itself into a pretzel with a bunch of loopy arrangements based on questionable predictions of public interest. Residents are told by professional cheerleaders that it’s all brilliant. Buck up! We’re the “Capital of Creativity!”

Who actually benefits? The business elite, of course.

7 Responses to Richmond’s Redskins Deal Gets Even Weirder

  1. Let’s start with basics – why are the Redskins looking to hold summer camp outside of Loudoun County?

    1. Coach Mike Shanahan thinks camp should be far enough away from the players’ homes, families, etc that they will stay in camp and not get distracted by traipsing home.

    2. Owner Dan Snyder figures that he already has the Washington area as Redskins fans and having the camp elsewhere might create an expanded fan base.

    So, where to go?

    1. East? Going far enough East to avoid “distractions” would put the Redskins’ summer camp squarely in the middle of Ravens’ country. Danny doesn’t improve his fan base.

    2. North? The Redskins used to hold summer camp in Carlysle, Pa. However, the only areas to the north with substantial population centers are either Steelers or Eagles strongholds.

    3. West? No population centers of any note until you get into Bengals territory.

    4. South? Ah ha! Richmond is not commutable, has over 1M potential fans and isn’t already in some other NFL team’s sphere of influence.

    Lesson #1 for Richmond: Other than perhaps Tidewater, the Redskins really had no choice as to where the summer camp would have to go in order to meet both Shanny and Snyder’s goals.

  2. Secondly, what do other teams do?

    NFL teams used to almost always go away to summer training camp. In 2000, only 5 of 31 teams trained at their home location (16%). In 2012, 18 of 32 teams (56%) stayed home for summer camp.

    Mr. Shanahan is an “old school” coach. He likes getting away to summer camp. However, the Redskins have had 8 head coaches since the 1993 season. By next summer’s training camp (assuming Shanahan is still coach) the Redskins will have had an average coaching tenure of 2.5 years for the last 20 years.

    What if a new coach decides that the overall trend of training at team headquarters (Loudoun County) is a better idea than heading to Richmond?

    Lesson #2 for Richmond: Lock them in tightly if your economics require multi-year returns.

    You also may want to hurry with that lock in. Shanahan’s record with the Redskins is 11 – 21 (.344). The much maligned Jim Zorn, who was fired after two seasons, was 12 – 20 (.375).

  3. Don the Ripper
    Great! So why don’t the Redskins PAY for some of this? If Richmond is the only place, as you say, you’d think this would give Richmond a much better bargaining position.

    The results show they are being rolled.

    • The Redskins don’t pay because they have found some “All Day Suckers” down in River City.

      However, it is a good cultural fit. Richmond adores losers. After all, aren’t there quite a few statues of Confederate generals lining the streets? Given the last 20 years of the Washington Redskins, maybe Dan Snyder ought to get his own statue on Monument Ave.

  4. Third, for the teams that do go away for summer camp, where do they go?

    They go to colleges and practice at the college. The Eagles go to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. The Steelers go to St Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. The Packers head to St Norbert College in De Pere, WI.

    I have never heard of the kind of complexity that attends the Redskins choice of Richmond. A school system, a jail, a hospital chain, naming rights, loans by the city, funds from the state ….

    The New York Giants have flip – flopped between holding summer camp in East Rutherford and going away to places like the University of Albany.

    Lesson #3 for Richmond: Take a look at the other NFL teams that go away to camp. What deals were required to accomplish that?

  5. This things stinks like a week-old corpse! This is grand corporate welfare at its finest. You have to wonder why the state would pump a couple mil into the deal since they are already in VA. There is no economic impact derived for state revenues to pay back the deal, so “pay back” really seems like what this is. As for RVA, this is another ridiculous white elephant that is robbing Peter to pay Paul, all under the guise of economic development. Will we never learn?

    As for Fraizer, Forbes ranked him as one of the worst CEOs (a classically overpaid one at that), and his ownership stake in the Richmond Raiders obviously makes him less than impartial.

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