Loudoun to finalize marketing partnership with Redskins

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted last week to finalize a lucrative marketing partnership with the Washington Redskins that will keep the team’s headquarters and training facility in Loudoun for another eight years.

The agreement, which is part of a larger package that provides for the expansion of the Redskins’ Ashburn facilities, will cost the county $2 million over four years — or $500,000 annually, according to county officials. The funds will come exclusively from restricted transient occupancy taxes — hotel room taxes — which must be used for tourism-related purposes.

The Redskins will also receive a $4 million grant from the state and a $6 million contribution from the Virginia State Lottery toward the planned $30 million expansion of the organization’s corporate headquarters and training facility, county officials said.

Loudoun’s part of the deal is valued at $16 million, and the county reported that the local economic benefit of the expansion at Redskins Park would be about $10 million.

The supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the agreement. Board Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) was absent because of personal reasons.

Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run), who sent a letter this year to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder with the goal of strengthening the country’s ties to the franchise, said Tuesday that the previous board’s approach to a Redskins sponsorship deal was a “missed opportunity.”

The previous board initially rejected a two-year, $250,000 marketing agreement with the team in December 2008, after a debate over the use of taxpayer money to align the county with a corporate brand. The subsequent outcry from many county busi­ness­peo­ple ultimately led the board to reconsider the agreement, which was approved in February 2009.

Williams said there “wasn’t exactly unity” among the previous supervisors about how to approach the deal.

“I think that this is a different board, and I think that we’re very pro-economic development,” he said. “The fact that the Redskins chose to stay in Loudoun County
. . . is a very good sign for us. I think it certainly increases our profile in the Washington metropolitan area.”

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) echoed Williams’s disapproval of the previous board’s approach to the agreement, noting that its “ill-fated meeting” about the Redskins sponsorship deal caught his attention as a Loudoun resident.

The board “had a rather appalling discussion about the Washington Redskins in Loudoun County,” he said. “It made me, as a citizen, start to pay attention to local government.”

Although the previous board ultimately approved an agreement, “it wasn’t fully taken advantage of,” Letourneau said, again asserting that the current deal is a wise investment for the county.

The marketing agreement, which seeks to closely align Loudoun with the Redskins brand, will include key provisions such as on-air mentions and on-screen identification; use of the Redskins team trademarks; VIP tours and recreational field events at Redskins Park; use of the FedEx Field premium suite; club level tickets; pre-game field passes; and special event ticket pre-sale opportunities for Loudoun businesses, county officials said.

Perks such as use of the FedEx Field premium suite and club-level tickets will be part of Loudoun’s efforts to attract, retain and bolster businesses in the county, Loudoun spokeswoman Anna Nissinen said.

Although the Redskins organization will maintain its headquarters and training facility in Ashburn, the team announced this month that it would move its summer training camp to Richmond beginning next year.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who said that the Redskins chose to stay in Virginia despite more lucrative offers from Maryland and the District, applauded the announcement.

The operations of Redskins Park have created an annual statewide economic impact of $31.2 million, county officials said, and have generated more than $2 million in state and local tax revenue.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Loudoun supervisors seemed to be at peace with the relocation of the team’s summer training camp.

“If that’s what Mike Shanahan wants to do to toughen up the team, then God bless him,” said Supervisor Kenneth D. Reid (R-Leesburg).

Reid acknowledged that some of the supervisors had received “angry e-mails” from critics of the deal, who “somehow think that we are engaging in corporate welfare.”

Reid emphasized that the funding for the deal came exclusively from hotel tax revenue.

“I would just like to say to the critics that I think this is a good deal,” he said. “We’re not using any general property tax funds . . . and, in return, we’re getting the ability to promote Loudoun County.”

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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