Bon Secours will be the main sponsor of a $10 million training camp facility for the Washington Redskins to be built on state land behind the Science Museum of Virginia.
The announcement, made Monday by Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, is part of a major economic development deal that includes expansions of two health care system facilities.
Flanked by representatives from the NFL franchise and Bon Secours as well as members of the City Council at the 17-acre site, Jones said the agreement will mean a $40 million investment in the city that will add more than 200 jobs. It came a little more than four months after Jones and Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the Redskins organization would keep its headquarters in Virginia and move its three-week summer training camp to Richmond.
"We have a bold and exciting plan to put Richmond on the map with one of the most state-of-the-art NFL training camp facilities in the entire country," Jones said. "This is going to be a first-class facility that will not only offer professional-level playing fields, but it's also going to incorporate health and wellness services that are going to be provided by Bon Secours."
While Jones said many details remain to be ironed out, the training camp's fields and facilities will be available for city residents to use when the camp is not in session. Though the team will need total use of the facility about six weeks of the year, year-round sports medicine, men's health and fitness facilities are planned for the site, which will be called the Bon Secours Training Center, Jones said.
Richmond will obtain a lease for the land from the state, then make a loan through the city's Economic Development Authority to jump-start construction, which needs to begin almost immediately to have the site ready for next summer, the Redskins' first year in Richmond. The team is committed to an eight-year agreement to hold the three-week camp in the city as part of an economic incentive deal with the state. City officials say the camp will mean a yearly economic impact of $8.5 million in Richmond.
"It's got to happen very fast. It's going to be a quick timetable, but I think we can accomplish it," Jones said, adding that the Economic Development Authority will manage the construction and operate the facility.
"We believe that Bon Secours, their presence, will almost guarantee rent and sponsorship for at least two-thirds of the payback of the city's $10 million loan," Jones said. "We anticipate the remaining amount of the loan would be repaid through rental of the fields and other sponsorships over a 10-year-period."
The arrangement also includes two major Bon Secours expansions: one at the site of the former Westhampton School at Libbie and Patterson avenues, unused by students since 2009, and the other near Bon Secours' Richmond Community Hospital in the East End.
The city will give Bon Secours a long-term lease on the Westhampton site for the development of a 75,000-square-foot medical building with about 120 full-time workers.
"The associated value of being able to develop on that site, without outright buying that site at market value, is being directed to the construction costs of the Washington Redskins practice fields and the development of Richmond Community Hospital in the East End," a city news release says.
However, the fate of the school buildings, which Richmond acquired from Henrico County in 1942, remains uncertain. According to the Richmond Public Schools website, one building at the school, turned over to the city in 2009, dates to 1917.
"No decision has been made as to how the school is to be treated," said City Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall, addressing whether the school will be torn down or renovated.
Bon Secours will also build a 25,000-square-foot medical office in the East End that will house 75 full-time employees, as well as a wellness and fitness center. Much of that property is owned by the company, though city officials were unsure if additional parcels would need to be acquired for the development.
"This agreement will allow Bon Secours to significantly expand upon our effort to build healthier communities across Richmond," Peter J. Bernard, CEO of Bon Secours Virginia Health System, said in a news release.
Bruce Allen, Redskins executive vice president and general manager, said the Richmond camp will be an asset to the team and the community.
"It's a mission like this that is going to help the future of the Redskins players, coaches and fans," Allen said. "When young men and young women meet a player at a training camp, it can change their lives."
Only three teams ever have won a Super Bowl without holding their training camp away from their home facility, he added.
"You build a special camaraderie within your team. But the best thing is you're introducing yourself to your fans that year. And we're looking forward to it here in Richmond," he said.
The City Council will consider a pair of measures next month related to the Redskins-Bon Secours deal. One is a broad gesture of support for the plan that Council President Kathy Graziano, who served on the mayoral panel that made recommendations on sites for the camp, said is necessary to demonstrate a commitment to the team and the hospital system.
The council will have to sign off later on the more specific details of the deal, she added.
Another is a change to the city's bond ordinance that allows the city to appropriate money to the Economic Development Authority so it can make loans or grants for economic development.
Councilman Bruce W. Tyler of the 1st District, who attended Monday's news conference behind the museum, said he was "glad the deal was announced today" but expressed concern about the city's bond limit, given the fact that the full tab for the four new schools and the jail the city is building has yet to be presented.
"We are at a point where we're going to hit our debt limit," he said. "I want to make sure before we get there that we have everything under control."