One transformation is complete.
What once was a tree-laden field is now, in the words of Super Bowl winning Washington Redskins legend Joe Theismann, “a field of dreams.”
The Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center officially held its grand opening Monday afternoon with a festive, star-studded event attended by dignitaries and invited fans, politicians and skydivers.
It is an amazing accomplishment for a Richmond region with a checkered history of missed opportunities and lost causes, a region that continues to haggle over where to build a baseball stadium for a Flying Squirrels franchise that must be given high marks for its patience. But lingering over the celebration were questions of whether the promised economic and tourist benefits of having an NFL team in Richmond for three weeks will come to full fruition.
The team, and Bon Secours, showing its commitment to improving health care in underserved areas of Richmond, had the All-City of Richmond high school marching band perform, and a representative coach and player from each city high school in attendance. Several Hanover dignitaries were among the gathered, including Del. Chris Peace (R-97th), outgoing Del. John Cox (R-55th), Beaverdam District Supervisor Bucky Stanley, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who praised the team, area officials, and Bon Secours for putting a world-class facility together in a matter of months.
“Economically, it means a lot for the region,” Bolling told the Herald-Progress. “Not only will we have players here, but we’ll have literally thousands of people coming to Richmond, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and visiting our other tourist attractions.”
Noting that this is year one of an eight-year agreement, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said the region is working on future tourist packages which include visits to the Training Center, Squirrels games, and visits to other regional attractions that will be offered to tourists in the future. Undoubtedly, those who operate hotels, restaurants, and stores in Hanover County will be interested in how the packages unfold, and whether their offerings will be included.
Jones was among several speakers at the event, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, and Theismann, who will forever be remembered in Redskins history as the first quarterback to bring a Vince Lombardi Trophy to Washington in 1983 when the Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII. He told those assembled the advantages of having a team gather at a facility like this away from their home city gives the coaches a crucial opportunity to build the foundation for a winning team, harkening back to his training camp days when the Redskins spent their late summer weeks in Carlisle, Pa.
So, in two weeks, the NFL arrives in Richmond. The Robert Griffin III knee recovery watch will be centered behind the Science Museum of Virginia. Head Coach Mike Shanahan will begin the process of molding a 53-man roster into a winning team, all in front of thousands who will converge on the 17-acre property to watch player dreams come true, or come to an end.
But others will be watching a much different game, a game of dollars and cents, to see if the Redskins’ fans fulfill the promises of multitudes of public officials, and will leave the economic mark not only on RVA, but on places like Hanover County.
The Herald-Progress will follow up on both the team’s progress and the progress of our area businesses during this, the most anticipated three-week period to occur in Central Virginia in a very long time.