We could finally see professional soccer in northern Virginia, as a new Loudoun County USL stadium is being pitched by MLS’s D.C. United, which would use the proposed Leesburg complex for development and practices.
Talks between Loudoun County and D.C. United are advanced, to the point where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) could be discussed at a January 10, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting. The plan would be to construct four fields (two reserved for the team, two open to public use), offices, training facility and an approximately 5,000-seat stadium at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, located near Dulles International Airport. The county would provide land for the facilities and approximately $15 million in financing, to be repaid by D.C. United. Though no opening date was announced, presumably the county and the team are looking at a 2019 launch.
“Securing a site for a permanent training facility and a second division team has been a top priority for the club,” said Dave Kasper, United general manager and VP of soccer operations, in a statement issued by Loudoun County. “We have been very pleased with the conversations we’ve had with Loudoun County officials to develop a site that will host a training facility, team offices, our youth development program and a second division professional team, and look forward to continuing those discussions. We believe that Loudoun County is an ideal location for these facilities and we will continue to work with county leaders to finalize an agreement.”
The county will have use of the stadium for other purposes, such as college sports, concerts and other events.
“For several years, I have been engaged in discussions with D.C. United to make a home in Loudoun County,” said Dulles District Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau, who also is chair of the Board’s Finance, Economic Development and Government Operations Committee, said in a press statement. “The county now has an incredible opportunity to bring a global sports franchise to Loudoun and to build upon the already-strong youth soccer programs in our county. Notably, under the proposed agreement, the team will be repaying the county for the cost of constructing its facilities, so this agreement is a win for our finances and for our residents.”
According to Loudoun County, approximately 50 employees would work at the United facility in Loudoun County, with the emphasis on the player and development side. D.C. United would practice there (the team’s new home, Audi Field, has no practice facilities) along with USL players, as well as housing the youth development program. Many business functions would remain at Audi Field, a condition of the team’s lease.
It’s pretty common for D.C. teams to practice outside the District. The Washington Redskins trained at Redskin Park in Herndon while playing games at RFK Stadium — a practice facility taken over by D.C. United when the Redskins moved to FedEx Field and a new Loudoun County practice facility. D.C. United currently practices at RFK Stadium training fields — something that will continue until a new practice facility is opened.
This is not Loudoun County’s first attempt to land Division II soccer. A plan to build a new ballpark for an NASL team (Virginia Calvary) and a professional baseball team (the Loudoun Hounds) failed because of financial challenges.
Image courtesy D.C. United.