The Board of Supervisors has agreed to defer Loudoun United’s rent payments at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park near Leesburg for the year in the face of a season that has been suspended indefinitely.
Supervisors on Tuesday voted to defer the $621,233 the team was going to pay the county in rent this year, spreading that payment out over the next six years instead with at least 8-percent interest. It is a move that Loudoun Treasurer H. Roger Zurn called into a board finance committee meeting to warn against, warning them supervisors should save every penny they can.
But most supervisors agreed with the request, likening the agreement more to landlords deferring rent so that their tenants will be able to eventually pay rather than go bankrupt. Representatives from Loudoun United have said they will use the money saved this year from the deferred rent to keep people in the organization employed.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said other landlords have been deferring rent for tenants so that they will get paid eventually, rather than force tenants into bankruptcy and get paid never. And, he pointed out, Loudoun United’s situation is also partially caused by the government—all county parks and recreation facilities, including Segra Field, have been closed.
“Loudoun United is currently locked out of this facility, so to me the right thing to do is to not expect the tenant to pay in a situation where they’re literally locked out of their facility by their landlord,” Letourneau said. “And in fact this is exactly what we’re encouraging private landlords to do across the county and across the region, an it’s what’s actually happening in many, many instances, and so we need to lead by example here.”
But Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed the extension. Umstattd has previously opposed extending more financing to the organization, and said she would not support the rent deferral for the same reasons.
“This is a fairly well connected entity that has access to financial support from people with a lot more money than our constituents have, a lot more money than most of our businesses have, and I did not support our subsidizing this then, and I’m not going to support it now,” Umstattd said.
Meanwhile, Randall said deferring the team’s rent would not be fair to the people in Loudoun who cannot get extensions on their rent.
“It just feels wrong to me to say yes to Loudoun United on this when we can’t say yes to so many other people,” Randall said. “And we’re trying, we’re doing the Business Interruption Fund, we’re doing the rental assistance, we’re doing all that, we’re trying, but this one just feels like—and I mean this with respect—like a bit of a betrayal of the citizens of Loudoun if I did it.”
Supervisors voted 6-2-1 to defer the remainder of Loudoun United’s 2020 rent payments, with Randall and Umstattd opposed and Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) absent.
Loudoun United plays in a stadium owned by the county government, and the county government has already sunk $25 million in financing to build the stadium and bring the team, as well as headquarters and training facilities for major league men’s team DC United, to the county. After working out a deal in secret, county supervisors voted in January 2018 to approve $15 million in debt financing for the project to build the stadium, fields and offices, adding another $10 million in December 2019 when the project ran over budget in exchange for bringing a women’s soccer team, Washington Spirit—which had already announced a move into the park—to Loudoun, as well as a new marketing agreement.
On the other side of those agreements, the team agreed to pay back all of that cost over the next 30 years, paying rent to play in the county-owned stadium. It also did not have its first payment due until November of last year, which it made. The team’s next payment was due May 1, 2020.
The county has also seen cost overruns in its part of the project, including grading, building parking areas and walkways, and connecting utilities. Those overruns ratcheted an initial estimate of $7 million for that work up to $17 million.
This article was updated Friday, May 22 at 3:16 p.m. with a correction about the suspension of the 2020 USL soccer season.