With 40 days to go before construction deadline, it was all smiles at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond Monday afternoon as team, city, and Bon Secours officials led media members on a tour of the facility.
The sod for the two practice fields, installed last week, was being watered. The field house has a completed shell and awaits walls, doors, and final touches before the Redskins use the bottom floor for training, a weight room, and medical care while the top floor houses leasing tenants and medical facilities designed to help the inner city population.
At a press conference, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones told the Herald-Progress that Hanover, as well as other area jurisdictions, will enjoy economic benefits.
“The city will feel economic effects in a huge way, but certainly our regional partners will benefit as well. There are 17,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan area, and people will find themselves in various places throughout the region,” Jones said.
Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen stepped in, happy to remind the assembled of the excitement of a broad fan base.
“Our fans in Norfolk are excited. Our fans in North Carolina feel coming to Richmond is much more accessible,” Allen said.
The Redskins, and the city, expect 100,000 people to visit the new Training Center during the Redskins’ annual camp beginning July 25. Sixty percent of fans are expected to travel to Richmond from a 100-mile radius.
One question many people had when the project was announced several months ago was how it would be feasible to build such a facility on a 17-acre lot surrounded by existing, established Richmond landmarks, including the Science Museum of Virginia. That assignment fell to Jay Hugo, managing principal of the 3North architectural firm in Richmond. Hugo is an Ashland native, having graduated as salutatorian of the Patrick Henry High School Class of 1985. He was also the starting center for Ray Long’s first playoff team in 1983.
Hugo’s path to the Redskins began with a prior working relationship with Mike Frazier, head of the training center site selection committee.
“We offered our services early on as they were evaluating sites,” Hugo said. “They had a civil engineer engaged and decided they needed an architect to help with the test fit, to dig a little bit deeper to see if the actual building itself would fit on the site.”
In tandem with Mark Hourigan, of Hourigan Construction, Hugo offered those assembled an update on construction, including an explanation of a small piece of barren dirt near the center’s right side off Leigh Street. He explained the area will be for fan seating and other uses this year, with the hopes of erecting an indoor practice facility adjacent to the Field House in the future. The Redskins’ lease for the facility is eight years.
In the planning phase, Hugo and his team also took the Redskins’ new neighbors into consideration.
“A lot of the planning was driven by synergy with the Science Museum; they’re planning a large event pavilion expansion, and they’re going to have special events in a new iconic structure off the back of the museum,” Hugo explained.
Described as the museum’s “second front door,” it will dovetail logistically with the finished construction of the Redskins facility. This fits in with Allen’s vision of the center, and the team, reaching out to the children of the Richmond area each summer.
Admission to training camp is free. There will no bleachers; fans are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs. As for parking, city officials are still working on those plans, but have already announced a $7 shuttle service from City Stadium.
As the finishing touches come to the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, and the actual Redskins arrive in Richmond on July 24, retail, hotel, and restaurant owners in Hanover can expect to see a welcomed influx of activity. It will be easily identifiable, as most will come in Redskins jerseys. And the entire metropolitan area will have Hugo to thank, in part, for successfully bringing the NFL to their own backyard.