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For Redskins fans, Richmond camp is the place to be

Posted by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 11:07 AM
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The Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center had its grand opening Monday, July 8, 2013 in Richmond. <span Kevin Morley | Richmond Times-Dispatch via The Associated Press)</span>By Tom Robinson
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 24, 2013

RICHMOND

The Washington Redskins will open training camp Thursday at a new $10 million, 17-acre complex where for the next three weeks fans can ogle - even mingle with, to a degree - the likes of coach Mike Shanahan and star quarterback Robert Griffin III.

This will be the first time in more than a decade that the Redskins have held summer camp away from Redskins Park, their permanent training facility in Ashburn.

The defending NFC East champions will be in Richmond through Aug. 16 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. They'll hold 17 days of practices open to the public, with no admission charge, before relocating back to Redskins Park.

The team says autograph and photo opportunities will be available after practices, which typically last about 90 minutes. Most days the team will hold a morning "walkthrough" in helmets and a larger-scale afternoon workout in full pads.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said two years ago that he was "open" to moving his team's headquarters and training facility from Ashburn in Loudoun County to wherever he got the best offer.

Maryland, where the Redskins play their games at FedEx Field, and the District of Columbia bid for the team's presence. So did Virginia.

Ultimately, the commonwealth and Snyder agreed to share a $30 million renovation of Redskins Park. But for fans in Hampton Roads, the deal came packaged with an unexpected perk: the chance to see their team hold summer camp up the road in Richmond for the next eight years.

There are no grandstands at the two full-size, grass practice fields, but fans - the city expects "hundreds of thousands" to visit during camp - can bring chairs or stand and observe from designated surrounding areas close enough to hear players banter and coaches instruct.

Although the time in Richmond won't be long, it will be critical to the team's fate and especially to younger players fighting to make the squad, said Joe Theismann, who played quarterback for the Redskins from 1974-85.

At the grand opening ceremony for the center earlier this month, Theismann echoed Shanahan's belief that an away camp, where players stay together in a hotel, eat en masse and work in a controlled environment, promotes an invaluable "sense of camaraderie."

"You build a sense of care about one another, and you really build that thing called team," Theismann said.

Theismann said Redskins fans who brave summer traffic and venture into Richmond's heat, humidity and humanity should expect an eye-opening, up-close view of elite athletes, most very large, working as if their livelihood depends on it - which, in many cases, it will.

"People say, 'Gee, it's just three weeks.' It's three very important weeks," Theismann said. "Some of the young players, these three weeks will be the single most important three weeks of their life. They'll either make a football team, or they will not make a football team. They will impress coaches, or they'll be asked to leave."

For 31 years until 1994, the Redskins spent the better part of two months summering at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. The next five training camps were at Frostburg State in western Maryland, but except for a two-year return to Dickinson a decade ago, the team has held summer camp at Redskins Park every year since 2000.

That kept with the trend within the NFL of staying home for camp for familiarity and convenience. However, Shanahan has been clear that he favors a destination camp, and this summer, the Redskins are among 13 of 32 NFL teams that will go out of town to prep for the upcoming season.

But DeAngelo Hall, a veteran Redskins cornerback from Chesapeake, is hardly bullish on the idea. He was quoted in The Washington Post last year, saying, "It's going to feel a lot more like work. I've been a part of going away to training camp a couple times, and it's a lot different... a lot different than getting out of your own bed."

The Redskins' roster also includes veteran linebacker Darryl Tapp, a recent signee who like Hall attended Deep Creek High and Virginia Tech. Two other ex-Hokies will be in camp - receiver Joshua Morgan and center Will Montgomery. They will be joined by rookie Chase Minnifield, a defensive back out of the University of Virginia.

Richmond materialized as the Redskins' new summer home after the team included its wish for an off-site camp in discussions regarding improvements to its Ashburn headquarters, said Carrie Roth, Virginia's deputy secretary for commerce and trade.

"Everyone was pitching for the expansion of their headquarters," said Roth, noting competing bids from Maryland and D.C. "But it was also important to the coaches and to (general manager) Bruce Allen to have a facility away from Ashburn for the players to train."

Virginia will contribute $4 million, Loudoun County $2 million and Richmond $400,000 toward the Redskins package.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell approached Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones to help bring the training camp idea into focus. Although the team in '07 investigated holding camp in Virginia Beach and also staged a popular weekend "Beach Blitz" fan event there for three summers, that city wasn't considered for camp this time, Virginia Beach spokesman Marc Davis said.

Once the Redskins agreed on Richmond as a location, McDonnell and Jones recruited Bon Secours Health System to become the title sponsor for the complex, with a 42,000-square-foot building and fields erected in about seven months. Even after the Redskins leave, Bon Secours officials say the training center will pay off year-round for the company and the city as a base of operations for sports medicine and men's health treatment, as well as community outreach programs.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything happen this fast in my 40 years in Richmond," said Jones, who lauded the tourism, job creation and investment that will be created by fans flocking to the site. Additionally, Richmond plans to use the training camp's fields for youth and high school sports events throughout the year.

But its obvious primary purpose is to give the Redskins a sparkling summer home from which they can begin the six-week process of shaping their roster for their first game: Monday, Sept. 9, against Philadelphia.

McDonnell said at the grand opening that retaining the Redskins' operations means more than 1,800 jobs and $200 million of economic impact to the commonwealth, along with nearly $10 million in local and state tax revenue. Richmond expects to reap some $8.5 million of economic impact during training camp.

by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 11:07 AM
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SabrinaLC
by Sabrina on Jul. 25, 2013 at 7:59 AM

Thanks for sharing

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