The Washington Times - November 1, 2011, 10:16AM

What were Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and D.C. Council members Jack Evans and Michael Brown doing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Friday?

The trio was headed south to get a behind-the-scenes look of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ headquarters and practice facilities.


And why, might fans ask, do D.C. officials have the slightest bit of curiosity about the Bucs, who are not on the ‘Skins regular-season schedule?

Well, the Bucs’ facilities — among the largest in the NFL with three full-length grass practice fields perched on 33 acres of land — and Washington is economically and socially jealous.

In other words, city officials appear to be finally getting their ducks in a row to lure the Washington Redskins back to, well, Washington.

As things now stand, the Redskins’ practice in Virginia and play in Maryland — an oxymoronic situation that late owner Jack Cooke Kent created 15 years ago, when he and Maryland officials inked a deal to build a new stadium for his franchise to play its home games in Prince George’s County but kept its headquarters closer to his home in Virginia.

Mr. Cooke’s decisions have haunted his beloved team ever since (and their record proves it.)

Washington “deserves the Redskins” and the “Redskins deserve Washington,” a source told me.

“We’re still in the early planning stages,” said the source. “It will take six months to demolish the buildings currently on the site of Reservation 13 and three or so years to build the new facilities.”

Reservation 13 straddles the Anacostia River, is adjacent to the underutilized RFK Stadium and provides easy access to major north-south and east-west arteries.

A new state-of-the-art D.C. training field would certainly prove more suitable than facilities in Ashburn, where a planned bubble-encased structure will have to suffice for the Redskins’ indoor facilities.

The ‘Skins certainly need a new training site. Prior to the ground-breaking this year on the “bubble” in Ashburn, inclement weather, such as snow, ice and lightning storms, would force the ‘Skins to temporarily set up shop in an airport hangar or gymnasium, hardly becoming a professional football team.

Now, I hear you. The ‘Skins FedEx record ain’t what it used to be. But it’s time for a do-over and some tough offense.

Officials in Prince George’s and the state of Maryland aren’t going to let the Redskins go quietly into the night, as the Baltimore Colts did in 1984, when then-owner Robert Irsay shipped the team to Indianapolis during a snowstorm.

Indeed, Maryland officials have already launched a $25,000 feasibility study to determine whether and how they will exercise a provision in its agreement that gives the county the right of first refusal should the Redskins decide to relocate the team’s headquarters and practice facility.

It’s encouraging to know D.C. officials have their eyes on the prize, too.

All that’s missing is a serious shout out from the Washington business community.