RICHMOND, Va. – Washington Redskins training camp kicked off for the sixth year with Richmond city leaders speaking out about the future of the team’s preseason preparation in Richmond.
The controversial 2012 deal ties the team to Richmond through 2020, and multiple city leaders told CBS 6 that if conditions of the a new contract do not change, the team would likely be looking for a new place to hold future training camps.
The public has expressed indignation over a clause in the original eight-year contract between the team and Richmond’s Economic Development Authority that puts the city on the hook for an annual $500,000 payment to the NFL team – in exchange for the team to hold camp in Richmond.
"I just don’t think the city of Richmond should be providing a cash subsidy to one of the wealthiest franchises in all of the world," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said.
In 2016, the Washington Redskins are valued at $2.85 billion, in the top 10 of Forbes’ 50 most valuable sports team, according to the Washington Post.
City residents and officials have said that money would be better used to fix school buildings or even potholes.
A spokesperson for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the city has met with the Redskins front office to begin talks about a contract beyond 2020.
Officials said those conversations were “frank,” and the mayor’s office said they would not support a new camp deal that included cash contributions from the city to the team.
"The dialogue continues," Stoney explained. "We did meet in May and we had a very candid, frank conversation about the current state of affairs between us and the franchise."
Stoney was not mayor of Richmond when the original deal with the franchise was made, but said it's now his deal to renegotiate.
"The ball is on [the Redskins'] side of the field with this one. It’s going to be in their court and that is whether or not they’ll continue the cash contribution from the city," he stated.
City officials said training camp brings excitement to Richmond each year, and they appreciate what the Redskins have done in the community. With two and half years remaining on the current contract, the mayor’s office said it would continue negotiations.
The Richmond Economic Development Authority (EDA), who brokered the original 2012 deal, said talks about an extension are underway, but no decisions have been finalized yet.
"Training camp and the collateral benefits have been good for the city. Bon Secours is moving forward with its new MOB and developing land in the East End as required by the agreements. VCU is in the process of doing an economic impact study to better define the contribution made by the Redskin project to he city, That study should be finished with the next 30 days," said John Molster, Chairman of the Richmond EDA.
'Worst decision I have made'
The Post recently reported that Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen declined to comment on the status negotiations with the city on a new training deal. The Post cited sources who said the team does not plan to leave the current contract early and is not yet exploring other options.
In a rarity in the city of Richmond, every member of City Council voted in favor of a resolution that said council would not support a renewal of the current contract beyond 2020, unless conditions of the deal changed.
“I hear about concerns with the Redskins deal, all the time,” said Kristen Larson, 4th district councilwoman. “Even Redskins fans who are residents of Richmond realize this was just not a fiscally sound deal for the city. It was touted as this huge windfall of tax revenue and benefits to local businesses, and we just haven’t seen that pan out.”
"In my 14 years on council, my vote for this deal was the worst decision that I have made. As far as I am concerned, they should begin looking for an alternative site because I am not interested in them staying here past 2020," said City Council President Chris Hilbert, who was on City Council when the original training camp deal was approved.
At the Bon Secours Facility Thursday, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in burgundy and gold who wanted to see the team go.
Two longtime fans, who said their names are Mr. O and Redskins Bob, badly want training camp to stay in their hometown; however, they said in the long run, a new deal would benefit both the city and the team.
"I think the citizens would be more likely to approve of [training camp] if they did something like that. They'd appreciate it; I'd love to see them keep coming," they said.
Mayor Stoney said he planned to visit training camp in the upcoming days.
"We welcome that they’re here and I'm glad that they're here. I hope they come back for years to come, but they won’t be back under the current arrangement for us providing a cash stipulation."