By Allison Landry and Amber Shiflett
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – At a groundbreaking ceremony for the Bon Secours Redskins Training Center, Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a play-by-play of how the facility will boost the economy and create jobs.
McDonnell spoke as officials from Bon Secours Virginia Health System, the city of Richmond and the Washington Redskins joined together Thursday to celebrate the start of construction of the project.
Work on the world-class training facility, which will cover 15 acres along Leigh Street, behind the Science Museum of Virginia, is well under way. Officials project that the center will attract more than 100,000 fans, create hundreds of jobs and generate payroll, real estate and other tax revenues.
Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said the project will be an economic driver for the city, especially because it will attract more tourism. He also stressed the importance of Bon Secours’ role in the community, providing new programs and community activities to residents.
“This partnership will also generate needed health services – not just here, not just in the west end, but also in the east end. And for this, we are really grateful,” Jones said.
Asked if he thinks the Redskins’ decision to come to Richmond will benefit the city, Jones answered: “Do you think that a deal that’s worth over $40 million in real estate development is good for the city? … Are 200 new jobs good for the city? Is $18 million in new payroll tax good for the city? Are new real estate tax revenues and new payroll opportunities good for the city?”
Married to a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, McDonnell has been a longtime fan of the team. He is thrilled that Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, has chosen the Virginia capital as its new headquarters.
“People young and old in the capital city will now be able to welcome the NFC champion Washington Redskins,” McDonnell said. “Some of you may see burgundy and gold and ‘Hail Mary’ and ‘hard knocks,’ but you know what I see? I see jobs and tax revenue coming to the city of Richmond and the state of Virginia.”
Bruce Allen, executive vice president and general manager of the Washington Redskins, said good leadership can help foster stronger communities, just as it has helped build the Redskins community.
“The Washington Redskins organization, along with our partnership with Bon Secours, is looking forward to changing people’s lives every day of training camp,” Allen said.
Sister Anne Marie Mack, senior vice president of Bon Secours Richmond Health System, agrees that the training facility has both economic and community benefits for Richmond.
“This partnership will not only bring recognition to our great city, but will expand our quality health and wellness efforts into traditionally underserved areas of our city,” she said.
McDonnell said the training camp will be the only site in the country that will operate year-round.
In the offseason, it will offer health services and educational programs for both the west and east ends of Richmond. The facility is expected to bring economic advantages to the universities around the area as well.
“I think all the universities – Richmond and VCU – have some of their own players and athletes being able to engage with professionals on the Washington Redskins. I think they will be some good role models for them,” McDonnell said.
Harry Cousins, 73, is a Richmond resident and has been a Redskins fan most of his life. For nearly 50 years, he has been supporting the team and feels very strongly about its debut in the capital.
“You couldn’t pay me $5,000 to put on a different jersey. I just love the Redskins,” Cousins said.
Cousins said the Richmond community needs this training camp.
“I know this is going to help, and it’ll be a beautiful thing,” Cousins said. “It shows you what money can do. Even a man who has money can see areas that need particular things. I give Mr. Snyder all the credit in the world because he can see where things need to be put, and it couldn’t be a better place than Richmond.”