Planning Commission Leaning Toward One Loudoun Sportsplex Approval

Planning Commissioners in an informal vote Tuesday night found a majority in favor of One Loudoun’s proposed 80,000-square-foot indoor sports center.

One Loudoun’s developer, Miller & Smith, has proposed building the sport center at One Loudoun and handing it over to the county government ready to use. If the county agrees, the developer would proffer the sports center in exchange for rezoning to build to build an additional 685 apartment units, 40 townhouses, and a mini warehouse self-storage facility on its 358-acre property.

The sports center is offered as an alternative to $18.5 million in capital facilities contributions, cash payments which the cost of providing county services to new residents. It would also would substitute for county requirements for developers to provide civic spaces such as libraries, art galleries, museums, churches, or post offices around the new housing.

County planning staff members oppose many aspects of One Loudoun’s rezoning application, including those parts of it relating to the sports center. The sports center, they say, does not meet the definitions either for capital facilities or for civic space, and the sports center’s operating costs could have a big impact in the county budget.

But a straw poll found six of nine commissioners in favor of the proposal, with two opposed and one absent.

“The sportsplex is a force multiplier that this county may never see again if we don’t take this opportunity,” said Commissioner Jim Sisley (At Large). The developer, along with tourism leaders at Visit Loudoun, have argued that the sports center can bring massive tax revenues into the county, offsetting a potential shortfall in operating costs from ticket sales. One Loudoun and Visit Loudoun have cited the Round Rock Sports Center in Round Rock, TX, as an example of what they want to do here. That center operates at a deficit, but the city’s convention and visitors bureau estimated the sports center brought $4.7 million in spending into the city in 2015.

[Read about how Round Rock, Texas feels about the Round Rock Sports Center.]

Miller & Smith Vice President Bill May listens to Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson during the Planning Commission’s June 28 worksession. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]
Miller & Smith Vice President Bill May listens to Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson during the Planning Commission’s June 28 worksession.
[Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]
“No one at this table has said that the facility will be hugely lucrative and make a lot of profit,” said Miller & Smith Vice President Bill May. “What’s been represented is that … the wake that comes from this facility, in the [transient occupancy tax], the restaurants, the hotels, the tourist dollars that come from this facility being here, is where the benefit is to the county. Not that anybody who owns and operates this facility is going to be making a windfall.”

“We’re not trying to get out of any capital facilities contributions,” said Cooley LLP partner Colleen Gillis, who represents the developer in its application. “We’re not trying to reduce our commitment. We’re just trying to provide the county as much flexibility as possible to check the boxes for what Loudoun needs to be successful.”

Some commissioners and Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board member Jim Bonfils support the sports center, but say it needs more study.

“I really would like to see some hard analytics behind it,” said Commissioner Fred Jennings (Ashburn). “I don’t think it’s going to fail. I just want to make sure we can avoid some of the pitfalls that will erode the potential profit.”

Chairman Jeff Salmon (Dulles) said the sports center was a good opportunity, and he could support the sports center with a condition that the county could decide, before construction begins, to take the capital impact cash instead.

“I hesitate to say, I can get guaranteed money, or I can get hopefully-pretty-good, we-think-it’s-a-great-idea money,” Salmon said.

May and Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson made clear that the idea for the sports center did not come from the developer, but from Visit Loudoun and the county’s Department of Economic Development.

“When they approached me about the possibility of this facility being done in Loudoun, I found it intriguing,” May said. He had joined Erickson and Department of Economic Development Assistant Director Miguel Salinas on a tour of the Round Rock Sports Center.

“When you look at it, revenue and tax revenue follow sports tournaments,” Erickson said. “We need to be able to find a place for that to land here in the county, or we will lose that competitive edge.”

Gillis also made clear that the civic spaces exemption is only in the case of the sports center being approved.

Commissioners Eugene Scheel (Catoctin) and Ad Barnes (Leesburg) said they opposed the sports center.

“I’m against the county owning large public facilities,” Scheel said. Commissioners have worried that government is ill-suited to run a business, although some have recommended contracting the facility’s operations out.

Sisley, Jennings, Salmon, and Commissioners Charlie Douglas (Blue Ridge), Cliff Keirce (Broad Run), and Dan Lloyd (Sterling) expressed tentative support for the sports center in a straw poll. Commissioner Kathy Blackburn (Algonkian) was absent.

One Loudoun’s application was held over for additional review at another commission work session.

2 thoughts on “Planning Commission Leaning Toward One Loudoun Sportsplex Approval

  • 2016-07-01 at 4:01 pm

    Incredible. Let me get this straight — for the opportunity to build more roads and schools to support 720 new residences, we the taxpayers of Loudoun get ownership of a money-losing air-conditioned sports flex. MONEY-LOSING — from day one. If Visit Loudoun thinks this is so great, they should build it with their own money.

    The County earlier this week said they don’t pay firefighters enough to keep them after we train them. We don’t have enough mental-health care workers, we’re cheating our public employees on their retirement packages. In the face of this, of course, it makes absolute sense to buy in to a MONEY-LOSING opportunity. How many years will it be before we have to close/sell this building because no one wants to raise taxes so folks in One Loudoun can play a night game of pick-up basketball?

    Horrible idea.
    Craig Green

  • 2016-07-01 at 6:37 pm

    I agree with Cmackg. At least put all the facts out. What are the numbers on the Round Rock facility? What are the expected increased transient taxes? What is the cost of the building (not One Loudoun’s numbers but a competitively bid number)? What is the number of expected school age kids? How much would another developer pay next door to get the same rezoning (that’s the real value of this change)?

    Have any of the planning members considered what happens if a county in Maryland builds a competing sportsplex? The loss on the current one instantly increases.

    It appears Visit Loudoun is an association of businesses advocating the interests of Loudoun corporate community. To nobody’s surprise, they did not offer to increase the restaurant/hotel taxes (like in Round Rock) to pay for it. Instead, the taxpayer is supposed to pony up money for a special interest. I’m all for these firms getting more business, but don’t take our taxes to subsidize their marketing plans. And it appears Chairwoman Phyllis Randall has become the crony in chief. She was only too happy to extend the Visit Loudoun moa while they were pressuring the planning commission to swindle her constituents. You learn very fast Phyllis!!!!

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