Construction is underway for the ION International Training Center, a year-round, two-rink center and the county’s first indoor arena with stadium seating.. It’s the culmination of a dream for owner Luiz Taifas, an Olympic figure skater for the Romanian national team who has spent the past few years training young Northern Virginians.
The 100,000-square-foot center in the Peterson Companies’ Compass Creek development just south of Leesburg will house two National Hockey League-size rinks serving recreational and professional ice sports, and will also contain a multi-functional floor that will allow the arena to be used for non-ice-related events, including school graduations, sporting tournaments, and concerts. The opening is planned for July 2018 and, if all goes well in the first three years, Taifas said he hopes to add two more rinks.
Speaking to the crowd of supporters gathered for Wednesday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony, Taifas said for the better part of the past 12 years he has been “wondering loudly” why the Northern Virginia area did not have an Olympic-caliber training center.
“It took people, mostly my wife, saying ‘why don’t you stop complaining and do it’,” he recalled to laughter.
Taifas said he and his wife, Mitra Setayesh, took the past few years to put the plans for ION together “because it had to be done right.”
“My life since [the age of] 6 has been in ice rinks. I took notes on what was done wrong and right, and this will be done right,” he said.
The finished product will be a recreational and entertainment amenity to the community, but could even be the training home of future Olympians, Taifas said.
Michael Weiss, an Olympic figure skater, was one of the VIPs on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. He said he had shared his friend’s dream of having an Olympic-caliber training center in Northern Virginia.
“To now have something like this right in our backyard is just unbelievable,” Weiss said. “Maybe another Brian Boitano or Alex Ovechkin will come out of this.”
Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said she and other town leaders were “excited and thrilled” when they first heard about the ION project, albeit a little sad that the center will sit just outside of town boundaries. “But the boundary sits right there,” she said, pointing, “so we can kind of count it.”
Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) called ION “an exciting project for Leesburg and Loudoun County,” that achieves a dream shared by community leaders of bringing a “premiere addition to the sports community.”
Setayesh noted that Peterson Companies President Taylor Chess “was one of the first to catch the ION bug.” Both she and Taifas thanked Peterson Companies for its support of the project, and Chess expressed excitement that the Compass Creek development, located on 450 acres between Leesburg Executive Airport and the Dulles Greenway, could land such an anchor.
“The idea of what they wanted to create was such a great catalyst for a project like Compass Creek,” he said. “This will promote tourism as well as an activity for residents.”
ION will have a new neighbor not long after its planned summer 2018 opening. A Walmart SuperCenter is expected to open at Compass Creek in the first quarter of 2019.
Before the ceremony concluded, and the hockey sticks dug into the ground for the ceremonial groundbreaking, Taifas thanked the many individuals who made the project possible, from investors and business partners to developer Peterson Companies and the Loudoun County and Town of Leesburg staffs and government leaders. He joked that he had been warned about working with the county and how it would hold up their building process.
“Over the past two years we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the so-called bureaucrats,” he said, noting that both the town and county immediately bought into his vision and the project overall. “Today, we have the permits to start our dream. I’m so humbled and excited by the sports family and the community’s support.”