After secret negotiations that county leaders say have been ongoing for years, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has taken the first public step to bring a professional men’s soccer stadium and D.C. United headquarters to Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park south of Leesburg.
The deal with D.C. United, which would have the county take out $15 million in financing to build a 5,000-seat stadium and be paid back by the company, got a public hearing Wednesday. And while county officials from several departments backed the plan, it has also brought out the skeptics among Loudouners. Many of those are from Kincaid Forest, a neighborhood near Bolen Park split by Kincaid Boulevard.
“In 2019 in the spring when all of these people come in for this soccer stadium, are they going to come down Sycolin Road, or are they going to open up Kincaid Boulevard for these thousands of people to come through my neighborhood?” said Byron Williams.
Although the Leesburg Town Council has resisted opening Kincaid Boulevard to through traffic since its completion years ago, residents of Kincaid Forest worry it will be opened to traffic once the stadium is built. The boulevard connects Battlefield Parkway to a section of Crosstrail Boulevard that leads to the park.
Council members have said they plan to keep the road closed until the entire link of Crosstrail Boulevard—from Sycolin Road to the Village at Leesburg—is completed. That work may not be finished until after 2020—although the soccer stadium, if a deal goes through, must be open by March 2019, when the Division 2 professional men’s team it will house starts playing.
“I believe at this point, the county has a lot of homework to do on reconciling the traffic situation,” said Harold Kravets.
Other speakers questioned the merits of the financing deal.
“Why is it always on us?” said Chris Manthos. “These people are multi, multimillionaires. … If it’s such a great deal, then why aren’t all the private equity firms lining up?”
Supervisors and county officials, however defend the project as putting the county on the international soccer stage and bringing in several things the county its planners hoped to build anyway.
“Each year during the budget process, I spend time talking about the deficits that we have for facilities and providing places for the children and the adults to play around the county,” said Parks and Recreation Director Steve Torpy. “Phil Bolen is a strategic location for a regional park … and any time we have the opportunity to enhance the number of fields, the number of facilities that we have in areas such as central Loudoun, it’s a benefit.”
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) pointed out the project will take several expenses out of the county’s plans—including for more park-and-ride space and more fields. He attacked conservative organizations like Americans for Prosperity, which has opposed the deal.
“I’m an elected Republican and I’ve had enough of these guys,” Buona said. “I know they’re conservative—they don’t know a subsidy from a good business financing deal. This is not a taxpayer subsidy. We’re sharing in revenues, we’re getting all of our costs taken care of, we are avoiding costs that the county would incur without all of this.”
“This will be the county’s facility, that someone else is paying for, that the county can then get revenue from forever,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “There’s not too many opportunities that come along like this.”
The deal would move D.C. United offices and training facilities here and establish a men’s professional second division team in Loudoun. According to the county, approximately 50 employees would work at the United complex, which is where the team would construct a training facility for its first team players, second division players, youth development program, and offices to house business operations. The D.C. United second division team will play in a new stadium located on the west side of Bolen Park and is expected to play a 30-game schedule with 15 home dates.
The county would provide land and up to $15 million in financing for the stadium and offices, which the company will pay back through its lease.
“So they are building us a stadium, and then paying us for that stadium,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
The company would build approximately 40,000 square feet of headquarters and training facilities for D.C. United and the United Soccer League Team, four soccer fields, and a modular stadium for the USL team with at least 5,000 seats. The team’s franchise agreement requires it to begin competing in spring of 2019.
The county would clear the land at its expense and 1,000 more parking spaces, which it would be able to use for park-and-ride lots during commuter hours. The cost of clearing the site and building the parking lot is estimated at $7 million.
Four soccer fields will be constructed adjacent to the facility, two of which will serve as the team practice fields and two of which will have shared use with the county during peak recreational periods. The county would have use of the stadium when the team isn’t playing.
One suite at the stadium will be named the “Loudoun County Economic Development Suite” and county government leaders will have the first choice to use the suite. The second division team will seek to incorporate the word “Loudoun” into their team name and jerseys.
The deal would also involve changing county ordinances to allow beer and wine sales at the stadium.
Only Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) has expressed outright opposition to the deal.
“I don’t think the residents of this area are going to appreciate that, and I know the Town Council won’t appreciate it,” Umstattd said.
Supervisors voted to forward the deal to their Jan. 18 meeting 7-1-1, with Umstattd opposed and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) absent. At that meeting, they will vote whether to give county staff authority to negotiate a lease for the land at the park.