Fan Appreciation Day attracts 7,130 people
But numbers show interest in Washington camp declining
Joey Matthews | 8/20/2015, 10:21 p.m.
The Washington professional football team’s training camp in Richmond appears to be losing public interest as fast as a slow-footed quarterback loses ground behind a porous offensive line.
The camp averaged about 5,800 fans each day, compared to more than 11,000 each day last summer. And Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day attracted just 7,130 fans, down from last year’s 20,477.
With the shrinking popularity of the camp behind the Science Museum of Virginia, the NFL team is likely to continue sucking precious taxpayer dollars from city coffers because of the agreement city officials reached with billionaire Washington team owner Daniel Snyder to pay the team $500,000 annually to hold camp in Richmond for eight years.
The city promised to earn the $500,000 through camp sponsorships and in-kind services, but fell woefully short of that amount each of the camp’s first two years and was forced to use city money to make up the shortfall.
The city is likely to have to turn to taxpayers to bail it out again after a total of 75,000 fans turned out to the 13 days of camp that began July 30 and concluded last Sunday.
But the fans who showed up seemed to enjoy the show.
“I love camp,” said Antonio Rice of Virginia Beach. “I like the way it is set up.”
Earl Linton said he traveled from Woodbridge with his wife, Anna, to the camp for the first time on his day off.
“I get the opportunity to get close and see the players. It’s really exciting,” he said.
The camp’s vendors and businesses outside the camp mostly gave it a ho-hum rating.
Inside the camp, Big Herm’s Kitchen and Croaker’s Spot — two local popular black-owned eateries — reported sales a little better than last year’s numbers, which they described as anemic.
“The exposure was good, but the money wasn’t quite as good,” said Neverett Eggleston Jr., owner of Croaker’s Spot. “Maybe the dollars were tight, but I enjoyed being out here.”
Herman Baskerville, owner of Big Herm’s Kitchen, said sales “seemed a little better than last year. Last year, we lost money. This year, we actually made a few bucks.”
Both men said they made additional money by catering for several groups at the camp.
Mr. Baskerville said he’s a big fan of the Washington team, “so my opinion may be slightly skewed.”
“Am I pleased with the turnout? Yes,” he added. “Do I want more people to come out next year? Yes.”
Dean Kovanes, whose runs the Arby’s at 2309 W. Broad St., about a quarter of a mile from the camp, said it had a minimal impact on his business.
“Interest in it seems to be declining. Obviously, the first year was the biggest year. I don’t know it has been the boon anybody thought it would be, at least not here,” he added.
Nearby, the Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Hardee’s, 7-Eleven and CVS reported modest upticks in additional business from Washington fans.