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Defending the Redskins

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In reaction to Scott Bass' story on the Redskins training camp coming to Richmond, I would like to finish his story. To do so I will assume that the reporter is correct in his facts and the following events will unfold:

Bon Secours will get to develop a totally undeveloped site that is three NFL punts from the Boulevard corridor and Interstate 95; it will take an eyesore and expand its health care services in the Westhampton school area that has a rapidly aging neighborhood; and finally, it will enhance one of its existing facilities in an underserviced part of the city. Spend a little money, promote their brand and provide a little health care — shame on them!

I will also assume that the reporter has his facts straight while sorting out the half-dozen studies and actual existing measurements available on NFL training camps and their three-week economic impacts. This is where his argument loses traction — concentrating on the premise that this is only a three-week impact. In sports we speak of intangibles; things that don't show up in the box score.

Let me list the intangibles: 1) Dateline Richmond. Every time a media crew does a national or regional story on the Redskins camp, they will sign off "from Richmond, Virginia." The message: Richmond's in play for sports business. This is advertising that can't be bought. 2) Sports tourism is a rapidly expanding business in Richmond. Soccer fields, pools, courts, complexes and clubs are built around attracting top-flight events to this city. The convention center is drawing untraditional events such as volleyball and field hockey that were never considered revenue sources before. Having the Redskins in the regional résumé cannot be a bad thing for business. 3) An important object lesson can be learned at a key time in our city's development: Business leaders working with government move agendas more efficiently than politicians by themselves. Success in this endeavor may convince residents that modest public investments can produce huge dividends. I suggest that the action model exhibited here might just be the ticket to finding solutions to other challenges to our sports-entertainment infrastructure.

Finally, to a publication that romanticizes the making of a movie here in Richmond (as I do), I want to point out that the net result of this deal is actually leaving behind facilities that residents of metro Richmond can use for decades. "Lincoln" leaves us memories. This deal leaves us with facilities where few or none existed.

Gary Criswell
Operations Manager
Richmond Raiders LLC

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