- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

Maybe two assistant coaches and a dozen players. That was the goal Washington Redskins director of marketing Mike Stevens deemed attainable for the team’s first fan fest type event.

But when the Redskins Beach Blitz starts today in Virginia Beach, six assistant coaches and nearly 40 players will be on hand to sign autographs, conduct clinics and visit with fans.

The Beach Blitz, which will take place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center during the day and at the city’s oceanfront area at night, runs through Sunday.

Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams will serve as the official “host” of the event and players include Mark Brunell, Shawn Springs, Chris Cooley, Carlos Rogers, Renaldo Wynn and Mike Sellers.

The event is the first of a three-year contract between the Redskins and the City of Virginia Beach. Planning began late last spring.

“We looked at what other teams who had strong and traditional fan bases had done,” Stevens said. “The Chicago Cubs do a great fan convention but we wanted to go a step above having just an autograph session.”

To that end, in addition to 11 autograph sessions and eight football clinics, the Redskins are bringing the wildly popular NFL Experience — which has been featured at the Super Bowl for years — to Virginia Beach.

“The Super Bowl does a pretty good job with it and they’ve built all kinds of incredible interactive activities that have been used year in and year out,” Stevens said. “That’s when everything started coming together — when we decided to bring that experience to a brand new convention center.”

Four semi-trucks have hauled the equipment from the West Coast. Events include field goal kicking and throwing passes that are clocked with a speed gun.

The Beach Blitz is believed to be the first fan festival in the NFL that doesn’t take place at the team’s home stadium.

The Virginia Beach Convention Center opened last August.

“We expect to do really well,” said Jessica Rinck, a public relations executive working with the Visitor’s Bureau. “We’re expecting a really good walk-up crowd on Saturday.”

Buddy Wheeler, sports marketing coordinator for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said 2,000 tickets have been sold for tomorrow’s events. A gala dinner tonight and golf tournament tomorrow already have sold out. The center can accommodate 5,000 fans.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Redskins and the city,” he said. “When we started talking, we knew we could draw a lot of people vacationing from the District and the team has a huge fan base down here.”

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