RICHMOND — Move-in day isn’t for almost two months, but Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said Richmond and its many partners have succeeded in building his team its “field of dreams.”
The team and the city have reached an agreement for the Redskins to hold their three-week training camp for the next eight years at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center downtown.
The ground-breaking for the project was Jan. 9, and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said the deal “was predicated on our being able to deliver a training camp site. … The project is on schedule and on time.”
Flanked on one end by a two-story building that will house the Redskins’ locker room, training rooms and weight room on the bottom floor and office space overlooking the 17-acre plot on the second floor, the site features two full-size football fields and another grassy area where the team will do drill work.
Plans also call for VIP and media tents, spectator areas and eventually, an indoor practice building.
Sod was put down on the fields last week. Paving the parking lot will begin June 1, and the project should be complete June 30, said Mark Hourigan, president of the construction company leading the project.
Sprinklers were running on the field, trying to encourage the sod to take root.
“We are building the field of dreams for our players and this community,” Allen said Monday, standing in an unfinished area that will become the training area for the team when training camp opens July 25.
While Redskins fans living near Redskins Park in Ashburn, where the team has held its training camp for several years, are dismayed that the team has moved further south, Allen said the team has heard from plenty of people further south in Norfolk and North Carolina delighted to now live closer to the site.
Richmond estimates the camp will bring as many as 100,000 fans and estimates the economic impact of hosting the camp at $8.5 million annually. The city has also ensured that the locker room and fields will be available for use by youth programs and as hosts to events giving others access to the development.
Partners in the project also include the state of Virginia, which owns the land, and the Bon Secours Virginia Health System, which will operate a sports medicine rehabilitation and men’s health center in the training area throughout the year, except for the three or so weeks the Redskins are training there.
Getting the team away from Redskins Park, Allen said, will also allow the team “to build that camaraderie and the special flavor you only can have when you’re all focusing on one objective.”
What Allen couldn’t promise on Monday was that Robert Griffin III, who is coming back from knee surgery, would be ready to go when training camp opens. He said the team won’t know until July 25.
“It’s great that the building’s on schedule,” he said, “and I’ve heard all those same phrases for our quarterback. It’s too early to tell right now. He is doing everything that the doctors want him to do.”
Allen also said renewed talk that the Redskins’ nickname is offensive to native Americans “is a non-issue and it’s been a non-issue for decades. We really don’t get the talk that other people get because we hear from our fans, and our fans will always be our fans of the Washington Redskins,” he said.
A recent AP poll showed to 79 percent of fans surveyed nationwide favor keeping the nickname.
The Redskins will come into this season virtually unchanged from last season, save for a handful of free agent signees and draft choices, making this one of their most stable summers in recent memory.
The man at the helm, two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan, will be entering the fourth year of a five-year contract as coach, but Allen said no discussions have been held to talk about an extension.
“We have a season coming,” he said.