Washington Redskins Move Training Camp in Buffalo-Style Fashion

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Washington Redskins Move Training Camp in Buffalo-Style Fashion
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may have something up his sleeve to add cash to his pocketbook. AP

In today's digital age, it doesn't take long for rumors to swirl. That's why it was imperative Wednesday morning for the Washington Redskins to confirm or deny a future move of the team's training camp to Richmond, Virginia.

According to a column in the Washington Post, the rumor mill got jump started on HogsHaven.com, when the website posted that the Redskins were all but certain to announce their intentions for the new training camp location.  

Messages spilled out on Facebook and Twitter, as fans and journalists tried to make sense of it all. Then the earth stood still, as the team responded in the affirmative at high noon.

Beginning in 2013, Washington fans will have to trek to Virginia's state capital to take in summer camp with the Redskins. And for some of the reporters who cover the team, reactions were mixed, but amusing.

 Rich Tandler ‏@Rich_Tandler (CSN Washington)

As one who has lived in Richmond for 21 years and is moving to Ashburn next week, I say, "Bad timing, guys!"

 John Keim ‏@john_keim (Washington Examiner)

If RG3 pans out, the #redskins could train in the park near my house and be successful. as long as they sidestep the deer poop, that is.

Richmond, Virginia is a peaceful place, but far from quaint, with plenty of nightlife to tempt the Redskins. Bossip.com

Keim later ribbed ESPN980's Chris Russell, who already suffers each day with long drives and traffic congestion. "I think @Russellmania980 spends more time in a car in one day then I do in a month," Keim tweeted. "I have accepted my fate in life," responded Russell.

So what does it all mean? Why Richmond? And why would the Redskins leave the friendly confines of Ashburn, Virginia, where the franchise has held camp for 10 of the past 12 years?  

The organization scurried to send out a release to explain, while Virginia governor Bob McDonnell cheerfully announced the developments in an outdoor news conference.

According to the press release, Governor McDonnell "approved a $4 million performance-based grant to support the retention and expansion" of Washington's headquarters and practice facilities in Ashburn. In addition, McDonnell agreed to an eight-year commitment for a training camp in Richmond, with a site to be determined.  

The University of Richmond appears to be the odds-on favorite. But according to Real Redskins.com blogger Rich Tandler, the purpose behind the move is up for debate.

Tandler suggests that it could improve player-bonding. He also recalls the day when coach Mike Shanahan was hired by the team and "expressed a preference for holding camp somewhere other than Redskins Park."

Shanny's quote piqued some interest at the time, but the owner who writes his checks may be the sole catalyst behind the decision.

The Redskins' plan is to reach out to far-away fans. WashingtonPost.com

Daniel Snyder is well known for making spontaneous decisions, especially if he sees dollar signs on the other end. And in his never-ending quest for financial gain, he may have discovered a blue-print that works, from a training camp standpoint.  

The Redskins currently have no problem attracting fans to their camp in Ashburn. But Snyder knows that Richmond is untapped territory and a place that can add to his profit margin. This writer's guess is that he may have done his homework and came to the conclusion that proof exists for adding numbers to the Redskins' fan base.

Take Buffalo for example. The 'blue collar' Bills play their games in a suburb called Orchard Park, but like the Redskins, they have held training camps in quiet, sleepy towns. I know this, because I graduated from SUNY Fredonia, which hosted the Bills for 19 summers. Think of Frostburg, Maryland or Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but smaller.

Fredonia was a fine town for camp and kept players out of trouble, but it catered to a fan base that was already secure in Western New York. The Bills sought a plan to maximize their brand and they were blessed with one, when a young marketing guru came to the rescue.

The man behind the plan was Russ Brandon, who later climbed the ranks to his current position as Buffalo's CEO. And the strategy he crafted was called 'regionalization'

‘Regionalization is about expanding the brand’, according to a recent tweet that was boldly labeled . 
Bills CEO Russ Brandon (right) smiles bright after agreeing to a training camp extension with St. John Fisher President Donald Bain. BuffaloBills.com

Brandon believed that if the team moved its camp to a more centralized area, it would attract families that normally chose not to attend the fan-friendly month of activity. The Bills agreed with him and in 2000, their training camp was moved to St. John Fisher College in Rochester, which lies two hours east of Fredonia and half-way between Buffalo and Syracuse.

Brandon, who earned his marketing degree from Fisher, was spot-on about his hunch and the team has cashed in ever since. Fans now flock to his alma mater from as far away as Albany and the Bills boast a training camp that is one of the most impressive and profitable ones in the NFL.   

Brandon later urged owner Ralph Wilson Jr. to extend regionalization to Toronto, Canada and the rest is history. The Bills now have fans attending games from the north, south, east and west and the team is viable again. 

Can Richmond be like Rochester for the Redskins? Likely so, because it will increase the team's exposure and attract fans from the southern-tier, who rarely interact with the players. A lot of those fans already drive to Maryland to watch the Skins play, but just think of the revenue Snyder will make by holding training camp near the Blue Ridge Mountains. He will also have a head-start on a marketing plan, if he chooses to negotiate a new stadium build in Virginia.

Snyder's overall agenda may remain private, but the parameters for success are set for now. With headquarters and practices in Ashburn, games in Landover, Maryland and training camp in Richmond, he'll certainly expand his brand. And Snyder may do more than just keep up with the Joneses.

By that, I mean Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys, who sit atop the NFL in total team value. Currently, the Cowboys have a $300 million cushion over No. 2 Washington ($1.85 billion to $1.55 billion).  

Buffalo ranks 29th out of 33 NFL teams at $792 million. But if Snyder wishes to knock his bitter rival from the top spot, he may want to push the envelope and borrow a page from the Bills' regional-style playbook.

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