By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Virginia Beach officials have asked the Washington Redskins to consider relocating their summer training camp beginning in 2009, city officials said yesterday.
Team officials could not be immediately reached because they were traveling to Seattle for today's first-round playoff game against the Seahawks. But city officials familiar with the talks said the Redskins would train at the Sportsplex, a facility in Virginia Beach.
Team officials have asked the city to provide $2.5 million in upgrades, including a weight-training facility and an additional practice field. The Virginian-Pilot first reported the proposal.
The team's relationship with the city stems from the Redskins Beach Blitz, which attracts more than 5,000 fans to the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The third annual weekend event, scheduled for May, includes interactive games, clinics by players and autograph sessions. About 40 players and coaches participate.
"The Redskins would be a tremendous draw," Virginia Beach City Council member Harry Diezel said. "This is Redskins territory down here. But we are in wait-and-see mode."
The Sportsplex, which opened in 1998, was the home of the Virginia Beach Mariners, a minor league soccer team that folded last year. "We have not had a primary tenant since," said Rick Rowe, the city's parks coordinator. The facility has a playing field and adjacent practice field.
The Redskins' training camp has been at Redskins Park, the team's headquarters in Ashburn, since 2003. But camp hasn't always been so close to home. From 1961 to 1994 and in 2001-02, the team trained in Carlisle, Pa. The Redskins trained in Frostburg, Md., from 1995 to 1999.
Virginia Beach officials said the team is scouting locations away from the Washington area to avoid the distractions of being near home.
A handful of practices are open to the public. For a town such as Virginia Beach, which draws large numbers of tourists during the summer, hosting the Redskins' training camp could be an added bonus.
Team spokesman Karl Swanson told the Virginian-Pilot that the team fields requests from communities every year to host the training camp. Several city officials said it's too early to tell whether this will come to fruition.
"What the council is doing is balancing the cost and benefits of this," Council member Jim Wood said. "One of the most important things we are looking at is private-sector participation, given that we do have lean budget times."
The estimated economic impact of hosting the training camp is $150,000, according to Cheryl Kilday, head of the Loudoun & Visitors Association.
"Everyone loves the Redskins and you want your hometown team nearby," she said. "I can understand why a community like Virginia Beach would want it, but we would hate to see it go."