Update: Friday, June 6: At a training camp press conference held Friday to introduce new head coach Jay Gruden, Mayor Dwight Jones announced the involvement of several Richmond restaurants inside the facility in addition to plans for an outside food truck court.
Jones said Croaker’s Spot, Big Herm’s Kitchen and King of Pops will sell their food alongside the team’s corporate vendors inside the facility. He added that Mosaic will continue to provide catering for VIP guests.
“If you don’t get some fish while you’re here, you’re going to miss a big treat,” Jones said of the Manchester-based Croaker’s Spot.
Jones spokeswoman Tammy Hawley said venue management company SMG has already received five applications for the food truck court outside the facility, with an expected cap at six. Applications are due June 15.
When city leaders brought the Redskins training camp to Richmond last year, they agreed to pay the team $500,000 annually every year the team practices here.
Despite a fundraiser that asked residents to donate directly to the camp by purchasing a commemorative brick, the city only came up with half of the cash during the 2013 inaugural season. This year, the city has a new strategy: Get the city’s vibrant food truck community to help pay for it.
Yesterday, local vendors were offered the opportunity to pay $2,500 to sell food on the street outside the camp. Profit from the fee will be turned over to the Redskins to help cover the cost of bringing the team to Richmond, said Mayor Dwight Jones’ press secretary, Tammy Hawley. She said the operators of the training camp told the city the fee was “very low.”
Local food truck operators aren’t so sure.
“That’s a huge fee,” says Malcolm Andress, the president of the city’s food truck association, RVA Street Foodies.
Last year, local food truck operators roundly criticized the Redskins after they were excluded from setting inside the camp. Instead, national vendors like Papa John’s and Famous Dave’s Barbecue provided the only food available on the grounds.
This year, those chains will still have the prime spots within the gates, but local vendors who can come up with $2,500 were told yesterday they will be able to set up outside the camp on Leigh Street.
The Redskins training camp, built by the city’s Economic Development Authority using $10 million from the city, was pitched to city residents as a way to boost the local economy.
Now, food truck operators are wondering why the city appears to be attempting to extract profit from some of the very businesses the camp is intended to support.
Hawley says the city always planned to raise the money it agreed to pay the Redskins through "sponsorships and other means."
SMG, a multi-national venue management company, operates the training facility on behalf of the city’s Economic Development Authority. In the solicitation it sent to local businesses, it said a “decision was made to keep fees low to assess interest.”
The email says the fee covers all 15 days of the camp, which the team says drew an average attendance of 8,000 fans per day. That breaks down to $166 per day. SMG is also asking vendors to set up at every practice between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m..
In contrast, it costs between zero and $25 to participate in most food truck courts, the vendors say. The cost to set up at one-day festivals can be more expensive. For example, it cost $250 to set up at Broad Appetit, part of which was a charitable donation to FeedMore. But those festivals tend to be more food-oriented, the vendors say.
“It’s not like the food trucks are getting the opportunity to be the vendors inside the event,” says Patrick Harris, who operates the Boka Tako trucks. “They’re just bringing food trucks out there on the street and they’re charging the food trucks to be out there.”
Food truck vendors say that between the fee and the cost of staffing their trucks for the duration of the camp, the event represents a huge risk for small, local businesses.
“They’re really running it in a corporate manner where, if you have a corporate account, you can dish out that much money to secure a place and then have the resources to be set up and prepped by 7 a.m. every day,” say Victoria DeRoche, who owns Pizza Tonight. “That’s a lot to ask of somebody.”
She says during last year’s camp she set up on the street outside the camp for free. Between the competition from the chains inside the gate and the fact that the public can bring its own food, she said she did very little business.
“I was very disappointed last year,” she said. “I did not feel any trickle down effect from this boon that was supposed to happen.”