Hunting for Gold 

The revenue outlook seems dim for Redskins training camp, raising uncertainty about how the city will get its money back.

click to enlarge Fans exit Redskins training camp in Richmond during summer practice.

Scott Elmquist

Fans exit Redskins training camp in Richmond during summer practice.

City officials said the Redskins training camp would pay for itself. But a quarter of the way into an eight-year contract that brought the team's summer practices to town, the project is struggling to bring in projected revenues.

In late 2012, City Council agreed to loan $10 million to the city's Economic Development Authority to finance the camp. City officials said the authority would develop the project and repay the city from the revenue it generated.

A large chunk of that revenue, $6.4 million, is being taken care of by Bon Secours Richmond Health System as part of a sponsorship deal and lease agreement it signed to operate a men's health center at the camp.

The city expected the remainder, $3.6 million, to come from the authority, which planned to raise money by selling additional sponsorships and renting out 20,000 square feet on the training center's second floor.

Those sponsorships have yet to materialize. And the EDA has struggled to find tenants interested in occupying that second floor.

Rich Johnson, an authority board member, has said the board had a good prospect lined up. But Meda Lane, chairwoman of the board's finance committee, says the prospect backed out.

The EDA has signed a lease with Bon Secours, which will rent out a third of the vacant space beginning at the end of the year. As for the rest of the floor, the authority is considering having it built out as a temporary event space.

Lane says it's been difficult to rent the space because tenants are required to vacate the property for five weeks each summer during the training camp. Logistics of the camp make simultaneous occupation of the second floor impossible, she says. Bon Secours also moves its operations while the Redskins are in town.

The facility also has fallen short of meeting projections that it would bring in an additional $1.1 million in sponsorships and rental fees annually. The EDA has sold no additional sponsorships, according to the facilities budget for 2014, and is budgeting only $50,000 for sponsorships next year.

Likewise, the authority has been unable to sell additional naming rights that it said would cover a $1 million budget overrun related to developing a park area at the west end of the camp.

The facility had more success renting its grounds, bringing in $60,000 in rent and food and beverages sales. Lane says the training camp was host to 70 events last year that had a total attendance of 15,866. Heading into the current fiscal year, the EDA is budgeting for an increase in that area to $90,000.

According to projections, the city expected the authority to make a $1.9 million payment on its loan this year. Lane says board members still must discuss when and how they'll begin repaying the city.

Complicating matters, she says, it's possible that some of the sponsorship money from Bon Secours set to go toward loan repayment instead will be turned over to the Redskins. That would help cover the $500,000 fee that the city agreed to pay the Redskins every year they practice in Richmond. If that happens, she says, repayment could be delayed.

Tammy Hawley, the press secretary to Mayor Dwight Jones, says the authority and the city haven't discussed that yet. She says it's up to the authority to decide when it will begin making payments to the city.

City Council President Charles Samuels calls the difference between the projected revenues and the actual revenues of the camp concerning.

"We will work with the EDA to make sure that they're successful with this," he says. "But we're also going to have to scrutinize projections for future projects to make sure these kinds of inaccuracies don't occur again." S

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