Mayor Vincent C. Gray and two council members took a quiet weekend trip to Tampa to check out the Buccaneers’ training facilities with the idea of building similar ones for the Redskins in the District.
The mayor’s office initially declined to comment on the trip Wednesday — which was not part of Gray’s public schedule. But following questions from The Washington Post and other media outlets, Gray’s office relented by late afternoon.
Chris Murphy, Gray’s chief of staff, confirmed the trip. He also said the mayor did not take his security detail and paid for his own expenses.
“They didn’t put it on the public schedule because . . . it was an effort to quietly explore possibilities without getting everyone’s hopes up,” said Murphy, who added that there was no effort to mislead the public.
Murphy said the city also did not want to create competition with Maryland and Virginia during such an early stage of exploration.
When reached for comment, Redskins senior vice president Tony Wyllie said only, “We’re exploring all of our options.”
Murphy said former Redskins defensive back Brig Owens — a vice president at city developer Bennett Group — accompanied the officials on the trip. The trip was initially reported by The Washington Times.
Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) both confirmed that they took the trip and paid their way. They declined further comment.
Sources with knowledge of the trip said the city and the Redskins are in very early negotiations to possibly build a practice facility for the Redskins at Reservation 13, the underutilized area next to RFK Stadium. (RFK is the former home of the Redskins.)
There was a pact to keep the trip confidential to prevent Maryland and Prince George’s County officials from calling on the Redskins about a possible return to the city, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the trip.
Gray (D) had promised that his administration would be open and transparent.
Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty was criticized for failing to disclose trips. His administration did not disclose outside funding for trips to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Tennis Championships and to Beijing and Shanghai for the Olympics until he came under scrutiny for the secrecy that surrounded the trips.
Staff writer Mike Jones contributed to this report.