February 15, 2013 In Uncategorized
Groundbreaking celebrated at Redskins training site
This summer, the ‘Skins are coming to him, and Lantz is thrilled.
“It gives you an opportunity to see the players up close and personal,” he said.
Lantz was a part of a crowd of several hundred — including fans, city and state officials, team representatives and other guests — celebrating a belated groundbreaking Thursday for the new Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center now under construction on 17 acres of state property off West Leigh Street.
The thrum of diesel engines and other construction noise, vying with a jazzy version of “Hail to the Redskins” inside the tent set up for the ceremony, provided a dose of irony that was not lost on the speakers, who included Gov. Bob McDonnell, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Bon Secours Virginia Health System CEO Peter J. Bernard and Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, among other officials.
“It sounds like they’re already breaking ground out there,” Allen said.
Though the city’s Planning Commission will review the final site plans Tuesday, work started last month, since the facility must be ready by the end of June.
On Thursday, workers were busy on part of the masonry for the field house, which will contain the team’s locker and weight rooms as well as sports medicine and men’s health offices that will be occupied by Bon Secours. The hospital system is kicking in $6.3 million in lease payments and naming rights for the $10 million center, with the balance coming from additional lease payments and sponsorships, city officials have said.
“The great benefit … is when you go away for training camp, players get that camaraderie that you can’t get when you stay at your home place,” Allen said.
The team’s management is also excited about the potential to interact with children and the community at large via the camp’s proximity to the Children’s Museum of Richmond and the Science Museum of Virginia, he said.
“We’re going to change this community (for) the better,” Allen said. “I love coming back to my hometown and I promise you the Redskins will carry their end of the bargain.”
The project is billed as big economic win for the city, with a package that includes two major Bon Secours hospital expansions for a total economic investment of $40 million. The economic impact of the three-week camp, which is projected to draw more than 100,000 fans to the area, is estimated by the city at $8.5 million.
However, various twists and turns of the plan, which was launched in June after McDonnell’s administration and the team struck a deal to keep the franchise in Virginia, have been criticized. Neighbors and City Council members have fumed about the destruction of trees on the Leigh Street site and a provision that gives Bon Secours a long-term lease on the city-owned Westhampton School property for a hospital expansion, among other aspects.
“Many people are asking me, do you think this a good deal for the city?” Jones said. “My question is: Do you think that a deal that’s worth over $40 million in real estate development is good for the city? … Are 200 new jobs good for the city? Is $18 million in new payroll tax good for the city? Are new real estate tax revenues and new payroll opportunities good for the city?”
McDonnell, whose wife, Maureen, is a former Redskins cheerleader, called the move to Richmond a “match made in heaven.”
“I see jobs and tax revenue coming to the city of Richmond and the state of Virginia,” McDonnell said. “Some of you will see passes and punts. What I see is role models and mentors for some of the young people in Richmond that have never been able to see one of these players except on TV.”
Taking questions from reporters after the event, McDonnell said talks about extending the team’s stay in Richmond after 2020 have yet to begin.
“The ground’s just getting dug, so we’re not talking about the renewal yet,” McDonnell said. “Once the coach and the owner and the general manager see what a great home the city of Richmond is, those things will follow naturally from that. But right now we just want to get off to a good start.”