It was learned on Friday that Richmond's Washington Redskins Training Center has garnered more support from surrounding counties than from the residents of the city who have had to pay for it, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch poll.
The poll was conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University from Sept. 18 to Sept. 24. Results of the poll showed that there was very little support for Richmond's initial investment of $9 million to fund the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. The actual cost after other commitments brought the final price closer to $11 million, and included the public amphitheater on West Leigh Street in Richmond.
A total of 694 people were contacted for the poll, but only one-fourth of that number were residents of the city of Richmond itself. The residents of the city expressed significant opposition to the training facility that opened in July of this year for their first preseason camp of an 8-year contract.
As far as actual numbers go, it breaks down along the lines of county versus city residents. City residents called the facility a bad investment by a margin of 7 percent, 39 percent bad to 32 percent good. As for the surrounding counties, especially Chesterfield, the consensus was that the facility a good investment and 31 percent thought it was a bad deal.
On another part of the poll, respondents were asked their opinion on their level of support for a new civic arena to replace the Richmond Coliseum and the location of a new baseball stadium for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. The results of the baseball arena poll will not be published until Sunday.
As for the Coliseum, 48 percent agreed a new arena was needed to replace the 42-year old coliseum, but 42 percent said they weren't sure or didn't know enough to answer the question. Only 11 percent said a new coliseum was not needed. Again, city residents showed the lowest level of support for the arena.
Over all, most people, 57 percent, were in agreement that Richmond would be able to support a professional sports team in baseball or football. So far, the closest anyone in the city could get to a professional sports team is the Washington Redskins camp, which drew 165,000 visitors over a 17 day period.
Be that as it may, the poll appeared to be skewed, especially with only one-fourth of the respondents being residents of the city. The poll also failed to address the question of the importance of the city's schools in relation to the building of new sports arenas at this time. The fact that there is so much on Richmond's plate at this time should be taken into account before judgments are made.
It is also evident that the residents of Richmond really had very little say on the subject of spending the city's money. And local businesses found that for the most part, increased sales were minimal, and location was "everything." Then there was the fiasco with the City Department of Economic and Community Development and its overreach in makinf the decision to incorporate Phase II work into the initial project, all without the approval of City Council.
As Councilwoman Kathy Graziano, 4th District, who chairs the council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee said back in May of this year, "It’s a very complicated deal and a complicated contract, so I think it’s going to take some time to figure out exactly where we are.”
In their figuring out where they are, City Council managed to misplace the very people who should have been heard in the first place. That we now have a training facility is one issue, but the bigger issue is still going to be what will happen with the Mayor's proposal to get that baseball stadium built in Shockoe Bottom.