Loudoun County supervisors have given the go-ahead for a professional soccer stadium and new D.C. United headquarters at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park on Leesburg’s southern border.
With that approval, work can begin to put in a 500-space parking lot, a new 300-space commuter lot, four FIFA-standard soccer fields, D.C. United’s new headquarters and offices, and a 5,000-seat stadium for a new second-division professional soccer team, Loudoun United. It would also eliminate some greenery and screening requirements around the project. Of the four fields, two will be available to the county for public use, and two are restricted to D.C. United and Loudoun United.
Since the project’s introduction, it has drawn protest from people living in the nearby Kincaid Forest neighborhood. They are concerned the project will drive stadium traffic onto Kincaid Boulevard, which divides their neighborhood.
The Leesburg Town Council has resisted opening Kincaid Boulevard, which ends at a barricade, to connect to an unfinished Crosstrail Boulevard. Creating the link would provide a route from Bolen Park to Battlefield Parkway, and possibly lead traffic through that neighborhood; however, once Crosstrail Boulevard is complete that traffic could flow to Rt. 7. Currently, the only other access to the park is on Sycolin Road or a winding route from Cochran Mill Road.
Leesburg attorney and former mayor Robert Sevila spoke on behalf of the neighborhood.
“The town’s position is pretty clear, pretty unwavering and consistent from 2011, and I would suggest to you the reason for that is the fear of the impact it’s going to have on the residents of Kincaid Forest,” Sevila said.
The county Planning Commission previously recommended cutting the Town of Leesburg out of a traffic management plan until town leaders agreed to open Kincaid Boulevard or the until Crosstrail Boulevard is finished.
“If the town wants to be part of the whole traffic management plan, the single thing that could have the greatest benefit to solving the traffic problem, they have steadfastly done nothing about,” said commission Chairman Cliff Keirce (Broad Run) at the time.
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said he could support that notion, largely because the town plans to charge the county much higher out-of-town rates for water and sewer service.
“For one government to basically try to profit off another government is very disturbing to me, because we have bent over backwards to do several things for them to help them out,” Buona said. “They need to revisit this. It’s not part of the land use application tonight, however, I will now support the Planning Commission recommendation of no Town of Leesburg involvement in the traffic management plan until Kincaid is open, because they don’t seem to be willing to work with us.”
Leesburg District supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), although she opposed the soccer complex project, said the town should be included in that plan.
“The town isn’t going to be hurt by not including them, but our ability to plan will be hurt if we don’t include the town, since the town owns and controls all the signalized intersections that may need to be synchronized if we want traffic flow well,” Umstattd said.
Ultimately, supervisors decided to include the town.
“I would have them participate, but I would also ask that they meet us halfway,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “And the idea that they would charge us out of town water when so much benefit from having the stadium is going to accrue to Leesburg … is not how these boards should be interacting with each other.”
The hearing also brought out residents living along nearby Tavistock Drive—who also want Kincaid opened. Residents said traffic detours along their street, which is a two-lane road compared to Kincaid’s four lane divided road. Moel Odzeyem said that traffic also conflicts with children walking to Cool Spring Elementary School.
“It’s become unbearable in the morning,” Odzeyem said. “So like everyone else has said, I strongly encourage everyone rethink Kincaid Boulevard. If you are still insisting on building the stadium, that road has to be open.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the stadium makes the county’s longtime goal of hosting a minor league team a reality.
“It’s going to our kids that will have a chance to play here, and graduate here, and go to events here,” Letourneau said. “This is a legacy project, and I’m very proud of it.”
Buona cited the new commuter lot and two soccer fields the county will get as part of the deal. After what were said to be years of secret negotiations with the team, the county struck a deal to take out $15 million in financing for the project, to be paid back by the company over 30 years. The county will own the stadium and fields.
After paying back county financing, the company will pay rent according to a marketing and revenue sharing agreement. The county and team will also lobby the General Assembly for the authority to collect a local admissions tax at the stadium.
The county will be responsible for building 1,000 parking spaces to serve the stadium, alongside the 691 spaces already available at the park-and-ride lot at the park. The cost of clearing the site and building the parking lot is estimated at $7 million.
“This is a revenue-positive project for the county,” Buona said. “We’re not subsidizing some rich sports team owners. We are getting paid back, and we are sharing in revenues for many things, like the parking, the alcohol sales, and all those kinds of things. But more importantly, this is about the greater good. I have talked to so many people around the county who are so excited about this project.”
Supervisors voted 7-1-1 to approve the park, Umstattd opposed and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) absent.
Bolen Park and county-owned land nearby is already home to 17 sports fields, a Loudoun County Fire and Rescue training facility, the Adult Detention Center, the Juvenile Detention Center, and other county government facilities.
Loudoun United is expected to play 15 or 16 home games each year, starting no earlier than 7 p.m.
At the same meeting, supervisors voted to allow alcohol sales at the park.