As tax dollars get the serious squeeze now in budget season, some Loudoun County residents and businesses are questioning the marketing deal that Loudoun cut with the Washington Redskins in 2012. The county agreed to pay Daniel Snyder’s outfit $2 million over the next four years for the ability to advertise and market Loudoun in connection with the Redskins and the team headquarters in Ashburn, plus get tickets and use of a suite at FedEx Field for a game.
Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors saw this as a way to assure the Redskins’ continued presence in Northern Virginia, even though the team later moved its training camp to Richmond, and associate themselves with a well-known brand as a good way to promote the county. But Jim Barnes reports in The Post’s Local Living that businesses in Loudoun are starting to wonder why one of sports’ most lucrative franchises is receiving Loudoun tax dollars when it could be going to needier merchants.
“They’re giving the money away to an organization that doesn’t need it, and they’re cutting all sorts of funding from worthy recipients,” said Avis Renshaw, who owns a farm near Lucketts and serves on Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Council. “I would argue that the rural economy is far more worthy of [tax] funding. Look how much business the wineries bring in from outside Loudoun County,” Renshaw told Barnes. Other business owners, particularly in rural western Loudoun, also voiced concern.
Now the money being paid to the Redskins technically is not coming from Loudoun taxpayers. It’s from the hotels tax, AKA the “transient occupancy tax,” on people staying in Loudoun hotels. Much of that money is legally required to be spent promoting tourism. Does co-branding Loudoun County and the Washington Redskins boost travel and tourism? You make the call.
The problem comes when the hotel tax money isn’t as much as expected, which it hasn’t been the last two years. Then, as Barnes reported last month, money from Loudoun taxpayers has to be shifted to pay for things like economic development and Visit Loudoun, the county’s convention and visitors bureau. And that’s where the Redskins deal can cost local taxpayers.
The Loudoun board thinks it’s made the right call on the deal. Board chairman Scott York (R) said he had no problem with the annual $500,000 check to the football club “because I believe in the long run it’s inducing ultimately what we are trying to do . . . to expand our commercial tax base, and expanding the commercial tax base does help to bring heads in beds because of business travel.” In 2012, Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) said he thought the agreement was good because “We’re not using any general property tax funds . . . and, in return, we’re getting the ability to promote Loudoun County.”
For its annual $500,000 payment to the Redskins, the county receives “marketing assets” that brand Loudoun as the corporate home of the Redskins in on-air mentions, advertisements and news releases, and on the backdrop that appears behind speakers at the team’s news conferences, Barnes wrote. It could be argued that Ashburn, not Loudoun County, is marketed as the Redskins’ headquarters, but it’s in Loudoun. It’s also worth noting that a contract is a contract, so Loudoun is on the hook for another million over the next two years, like it or not.
Barnes’ detailed report on the current Redskins payment is here. The 2012 story when the deal was signed is here. Do you think it’s a good idea for tax dollars to go to the Redskins, in order to promote Loudoun County? Your thoughts welcomed in the comments.