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By Sean Gorman October 24, 2016

Joe Morrissey hits and misses in claim about Redskins' training camp

Joe Morrissey says Richmond fumbled in 2013 when it signed a long-term deal to bring the Washington Redskins’ summer training camp to the city.

"We built the second richest team in the NFL a $14 million stadium," Morrissey said during an Oct. 17 mayoral candidates debate sponsored by ChamberRVA.

There’s been been lots of arguing over whether the Redskins training facility - located behind the Science Museum of Virginia - has been good for the city. Boosters of the plan, including outgoing Mayor Dwight Jones, have said it was a way to bring in economic activity in the city; detractors say the deal was a give away city dollars.

We won’t be able to settle that debate, but we’re curious about the factual claims in Morrissey’s statement: That the Redskins are the "second richest team" in the NFL and that the city built them a "$14 million stadium."

Let’s start by saying Morrissey’s description of the training camp as a stadium is inaccurate. The facility has no structure with tiered seats surrounding a field.

What the city built is essentially a two-story building and two football fields on a 17-acre tract. The first floor has a locker room and training rooms that the Redskins use during their three-week summer camp. When the team leaves town, the first floor is leased by Bon Secours hospital system as a men’s health center. Richmond planned to lease the second floor as office space, but has been unable to find tenants.

The $14 million

Morrissey said his figure on the cost to build the training facility was derived from two sources -- the city’s $10 million investment in the training camp as well as a $4 million state grant that Virginia provided to the Redskins. The state grant didn’t pay for constructing the facility; it was tied to an agreement between the state to encourage the Redskins, who are headquartered in Ashburn, to retain and expand their operations in Virginia.

The cost to build the training camp wasn’t $14 million. It was $10 million, paid for by the city and built by Richmond’s Economic Development Agency, said Tammy Hawley, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jones. She added in an email that the EDA also paid for an additional $1 million to build a park at the site. Rent and naming rights are being used to make bond payments for the city’s investment, she said.

But the city is also responsible for $500,000 payments to the Redskins each year during the course of the eight-year-agreement to cover some the team’s costs of training in Richmond. That’s paid for through sponsorships, in-kind services and not additional city funding, says a July 21, 2016 report to the City Council that Hawley sent us.

In recent years, the city’s EDA has had to make payments to cover portions of the annual $500,000 bill because sponsorships and other revenues from the site haven’t met expectations.

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The second richest NFL team?

This isn’t the first time Morrissey has said the Redskins are the "second richest team in the NFL." He also did so during a Sept. 29 interview on The John Fredericks show.

Morrissey pointed us to an Associated Press article from August 2014 and an April 2016 posting on  sports news website that say the Redskins team was the third most valuable team in the NFL.

The NFL value rankings are done every year by Forbes magazine, which looks at each team’s overall value as well as how much annual revenue they generate.

They have shown that, for years, the Redskins have been in the top tier the most valuable football franchises. Forbes valued the team at $1.7 billion in 2013, $2.4 billion in 2014 and $2.85 billion in 2015. Each year that made them the third most valuable franchise among the NFL’s 32 teams. The Redskins’ annual revenue was $381 million in 2012, $395 million in 2013 and $439 million in 2014, Forbes reported.

The 2016 estimates came out last month, and they show Washington has slipped in the rankings even though its value continues to increase. The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots continue to dominate as the most valuable teams. But the New York giants and San Francisco 49ers, which are valued at $3.1 billion and $3 billion, respectively, have now barely pulled ahead of the Redskins in the rankings.

Washington’s $2.95 billion overall value this year, ranks it fifth.The Redskins’ revenues of $447 million last year still ranked third, barely ahead of the Giants and the 49ers.

Our ruling

Morrissey said "We built the second richest team in the NFL a $14 million stadium."

Morrissey’s gist - that Richmond spent a lot of money building a training facility for one of the richest teams in the NFL - is solid. But his statement is filled with exaggerated figures and terms.

The facility is not a stadium; it mainly consists of two practice fields and a building containing a locker room and training rooms. The construction cost was $10 million. And the Redskins are the fifth wealthiest team in the NFL, according to Forbes.

On the whole, we rate Morrissey’s multi-faceted statement Half True.

Our Sources

Joe Morrissey’s comments at the Chamber RVA mayoral debate, Oct. 17, 2016. (His statement is at just over 10 minutes into the video.)

Interviews with Joe Morrissey, Oct. 19, 2016.

Associated Press, "Redskins 3rd most valuable team, worth $2.4 billion," Aug. 20, 2014., "Redskins: Dan Snyder’s net worth grows," April 10, 2016.

Emails from Tammy Hawley, spokeswoman for Mayor Dwight Jones, Oct. 20, 2016.

Richmond Finance and Economic Development Committee report to City Council, "Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center Project Update,"July 21, 2016.

Forbes, "NFL’s most valuable teams, 2016," Sept. 14, 2016.

Forbes, "The most valuable teams in the NFL," Sept. 14, 2015.

Forbes, "NFL’s most valuable teams," Aug. 20, 2014

Forbes, "The most valuable NFL teams," Aug. 14, 2013.

Forbes, "Dallas Cowboys lead NFL with $2.1 billion valuation," Sept. 5, 2012.

Redskins, "Bon Secours Redskins Training Center FAQs," accessed Oct. 20, 2016.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Mayor Dwight Jones says Redskins training camp generated ‘$40 million in new private investment,’" March 4, 2014.

The Washington Post, "As Redskins practice opens in Richmond, new questions about the deals that brought them here," July 30, 2015.

The Washington Post, "Virginia won’t consider legislation to promote Redskins stadium this year," Feb. 1, 2016.

The Washington Post, "Virginia, Loudoun, Richmond kick in total of $6.4M for Redskins deal," June, 6, 2012.

Richmond Economic Development Authority 2015 report, March 22, 2016.

Richmond Economic Development Authority training camp agreement, Feb.14, 2013.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "8-year commitment for Redskins camp in Richmond," June 6, 2012.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Redskins meet terms of $4m grant, Va. says," Sept. 18, 2015.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Redskins return amid economic concerns," July 26, 2015.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Redskins training camp on schedule for opening," May 5, 2013.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Richmond Mayoral candidates grill each another at RTD debate," Sept. 15, 2016.

The John Fredericks Show interview with Joe Morrissey, Sept. 29, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Richmond payment to Redskins climbs to $360K going into fourth year of training camp," March 30, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Not one red cent of public funds for the Redskins," Aug. 14, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Richmond contribution to Redskins not yet finalized," Dec. 29, 2014.

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Joe Morrissey hits and misses in claim about Redskins' training camp

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