An effort to bring some of the nation’s top women collegiate basketball players—and a bit of March madness—to the county fell short this week after organizers were unable to find a place for them to play.
Visit Loudoun was working with The National in a bid to land a regional finals tournament and potentially the final round of the2021 Women’s College National Invitational Tournament.
It was a project with the potential to bring $1.2 million in new spending, support 90 hospitality jobs and generate $100,000 in local taxes, according to Visit Loudoun.
The plan called for the teams to stay at The National in Lansdowne and play their games at nearby Riverside High School over one or two weeks in late March and early April.
Torye Hurst, Visit Loudoun’s director of sales, sports and services, briefed the School Board on the proposal Tuesday night. He said the unusual opportunity—which could include a nationally televised championship game from the Riverside Ram’s home court—was driven by the COVID pandemic, as tournament organizers search for locations that can safely house athletes in a bubble setting. The 917-room conference center is well suited for such an operation.
However, School Board members agreed they had to pass on the proposal.
In addition to concerns about bringing outsiders from across the country onto the campus that has been locked down for 10 months, board members, Principal Douglas A. Anderson and Athletics Director Matt Oblas worried about disrupting the activities of Riverside’s own student athletes. The school expects to have its delayed fall sports underway at that time and the competition cheer and volleyball teams would need access to the same gyms and facilities as the college players.
Hurst noted the situation highlights the need for a large indoor sports facility in the county, which is already well-established as a destination for national baseball and softball tournaments.
Since at least 2014, Visit Loudoun has been assessing the opportunities for increased tourism spending and tax revenue that an indoor amateur sports tournament facility could bring. In 2016, the developers of One Loudoun proposed building an indoor sportsplex and giving it to the county government to operate, but the final deal ended with a park and ride lot instead.
Visit Loudoun CEO Beth Erickson said the tourism nonprofit in 2017 partnered with the county’s Department of Economic Development and Parks and Recreation, and the Economic Development Advisory Committee to conduct a feasibility study for developing a 100,000-square-foot facility. She said the county’s economic development staff continues keep that project in mind.
“If nothing else, this opportunity helps illustrate the importance of and need for an indoor sports tournament facility, which would have made our WNIT bid a slam dunk, bringing revenue into the county—we estimate $1.2 million—and much-needed support for the tourism & hospitality industry,” Erickson said.