Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: rich sports team owner plays one jurisdiction off of another to get what he wants.
That seems to be the emerging story in the$6.4 million deal Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell struckrecently to keep the “Washington” Redskins training facility in Loudoun County. According to the Post, some Virginia legislators are none-too-happy with the arrangement, which they say is unnecessary for the Redskins and was an end run around the legislature:
“The General Assembly and its leadership had made pretty clear that they didn’t favor this plan, and there was a lot of sentiment that it looked like an end run by Governor McDonnell’s administration around the General Assembly,” said Del. Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington) .
Said Landes: “There wasn’t a lot of support for using state tax dollars to help the company and keep them in the state. Not that folks don’t want them here . . . [but] because they’re the second most profitable NFL organization.”
Del. Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and others complained that they had been kept in the dark.
A spokesman for McDonnell said he had the legal right to pursue the deal without keeping legislators informed, and that it would benefit the commonwealth by keeping the jobs and tourism associated with the training facility in the Old Dominion.
Whether or not Virginia legislators like it, Snyder and the team seem to have played D.C. against McDonnell brilliantly. Late last year Mayor Vince Gray and two D.C. councilmembers traveled to Tampa, Fla. to visit the Buccaneers’ training facility, a hint that they were interested in seeing how to make an urban Redskins training facility work. In February, Gray’s administration started making not-so-subtle hints that it was willing to considergiving over a huge chunk of Reservation 13 land by RFK Stadium for a Redskins training facility. (The news that Coach Mike Shanahan wanted to move the team’s 2013 training camp out of the Ashburn training facility onlyseems to have made McDonnell want to move faster to solidify some sort of deal with Snyder.)
D.C. has been at the receiving end of similar bare-knuckled negotiations in the past. When the Montreal Expos were looking to relocate to the D.C. market in the mid-2000s, MLB officials constantly hinted that they were willing to send the team to locations around the city unless D.C. could put up a reasonable stadium deal. Well, they got it—the city fully footed the bill for Nationals Park, which when fully paid off will have cost around $1 billion to build.
In the grand scheme of local sports, at least we’ve been lucky with the Wizards, Caps and D.C. United. While D.C. did kick in $50 million to renovate the Verizon Center a few years back, the late Wizards owners Abe Pollin had used his own money to build the arena. D.C. United has hinted that without a new stadium it would have to move, but it hasn’t used the threat of moving as a way to hold D.C. ransom for generous stadium subsidies. (The team has played at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium for 17 years; how’s that for dedication to the city?)
Sure, D.C. may have lost the opportunity to bring the Redskins back into the city—at least for training purposes. But considering the griping now happening in Virginia, it seems that we’re coming out winners.