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$6M helps lure Redskins to train in Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — The Washington Redskins will move their summer training camp about 100 miles south of their home base to an undetermined site in Richmond beginning in 2013.

Fans watch the Washington Redskins practice during fan appreciation day at the team's training camp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., last August.

The team’s general manager, Bruce Allen, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell jointly made the announcement Wednesday.

In addition to the eight-year agreement to hold preseason camps in Virginia’s capital city for eight years, the team also announced that it will retain its corporate headquarters and Redskin Park, its year-round training facility in suburban Loudoun County about 25 miles west of Washington.

Maryland and the District of Columbia had competed with Virginia to entice the Redskins to relocate there. The Redskins’ home stadium, FedEx Field, is in Landover, just outside the District.

Total Virginia incentives topped $6 million, McDonnell said. He approved a $4 million performance-based state grant, and Loudoun County agreed to put up about $500,000 annually over the next four years to help keep the team’s main facilities in Virginia.

At a news conference with Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, McDonnell said Virginia offered substantially less in incentives that its two beltway region rivals.

“Virginia considers the Redskins our team,” McDonnell said in a news release. “The team is based here. The team trains here. The players live here. Virginians root for the Redskins on the field, and off the field the team contributes greatly to the economy and culture of the Commonwealth.”

The NFC East team is the only major professional sports franchise based in Virginia. Figures from the governor’s office show that the team directly or indirectly supports 1,832 Virginia jobs, has a player payroll of more than $100 million and generates $200 million in economic activity in the state.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Commonwealth of Virginia that my father established 41 years ago,” said Allen, son of the late Hall of Fame Redskins coach George Allen.

Discussions about upgrading Redskin Park have been in the works for years. Relations between Loudoun County and the team grew tense several years ago when Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors narrowly rejected a proposed marketing agreement with the team that would have made the county the official corporate home of the team. The plan called also called for creating a Redskins Hall of Fame in the county, but would have required at least $200,000 in taxpayer funds.

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray pushed aggressively to get the Redskins to relocate their headquarters and practice facility from the county to the District. He visited Redskins Park in December and traveled to Tampa to tour practice facilities there and see what would be needed to lure the Redskins back to Washington.

In Richmond, the Redskins have deep loyalties, despite four last-place divisional finishes in a row. Burgundy-and-gold Redskins jerseys and parkas dominate sports bars on Sunday game days. Allen was a punter for the University of Richmond football team in the mid-1970s. His brother, George F. Allen, served as governor in the mid-1990s and lived in the Executive Mansion downtown, and is running for a second U.S. Senate term from the state this year.

The team has made inquiries about practice sites that would be open to them for about three weeks from late July through mid-August.

Richmond athletic director Jim Miller said the Redskins visited campus, but the school’s own football team will need its facilities for preseason drills, and work crews will still be preparing dormitories for the fall semester.

The city of Richmond owns a 22,600-seat stadium near downtown that was the Spiders’ home football field before an on-campus stadium was completed two years ago. The field is now home to the Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer League.

The only other college in Richmond with a football program is Virginia Union University. Nearby colleges include Virginia State University near Petersburg and Randolph-Macon College in nearby Ashland, but city official say the agreement restricts the Redskins to a training camp site within the city.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said he has been working with Redskins owner Dan Snyder and senior team executives to find the right training spot for the team. At a news conference, he said the city has tucked aside about $400,000 in its budget to help accommodate the Redskins.

In a city where revenue shortfalls forced schools to cut millions of dollars from its public schools, forcing scores of layoffs, furloughs and other job cuts, Jones defended earmarking public money for pro football. He and McDonnell both called the incentives reasonable investments that would quickly repay themselves many times over.

“The city has to balance its needs with growth of the tax base,” Jones said.