The Bulletin

Redskins say Richmond training camp has been ‘great for the city.’ Does anyone believe them?

By: - August 3, 2018 3:56 pm
The deal that brought the Washington Redskins summer training camp to Richmond cost the city more than $11 million. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The Washington Redskins practice in Richmond in 2018. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The deal that brought the Washington Redskins summer training camp to Richmond cost the city more than $11 million. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
The deal that brought the Washington Redskins summer training camp to Richmond cost the city more than $11 million. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Redskins management this week called the agreement that brought the NFL team’s summer training camp to Richmond six years ago a “financial windfall” for the city, The Washington Times reports.

At this point, not a single city official appears to agree with the team’s assessment.

The deal cost city taxpayers well over $11 million and requires a cash payment of $500,000 every year they practice here. Meanwhile, Richmond is grappling with a 27 percent poverty rate and crumbling school buildings.

The camp, which is currently under way, has seen flagging attendance to the point where the team stopped offering crowd estimates.

As initially pitched by former Mayor Dwight C. Jones, the deal would pay for itself, and for years, politicians stuck to that line.

But a city auditor report earlier this year found the deal underestimated the cost of building the team its facility and overestimated revenue from sponsorships, fees and rental income. With the only other choice being to default on the debt, the City Council has begrudgingly agreed to cover the cost out of the city budget.

Still, this week team president Bruce Allen called the camp “a great asset for the city,” according to the Times: “Not only the national TV and that exposure, which is beneficial, but if not for us, there wouldn’t be a facility. … I think it’s been great for the city.”

According to the paper, he cited team spending and charitable efforts totaling $819,556, including a summer reading program, a contribution to a new high school field.

“This doesn’t include me walking home on Robinson Street and having a beverage or two,” Allen told the Times.

City officials have made clear they don’t agree.

“What we have on paper right now is not financially viable,” Councilwoman Kristen Larson told the Times. And Mayor Levar Stoney has repeatedly panned the deal. Stoney met with the team in May to begin negotiations regarding an extension. But both parties have been non committal when asked how the meeting went and whether the team would stay without the $500,000-a-year payments.

“I’m not going to worry about that right now,” Allen told the Times. “I’m just hoping for some sunshine to dry out our fields right now. That’s our biggest concern.”

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.

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