What happened, what’s next for a stadium in Loudoun
Developers, county officials and a professional baseball league are seeking new projects and potential new ownership for a proposed stadium at Loudoun county’s “new downtown,’ the One Loudoun development at Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway.
This comes after a decades-long effort by Bob Farren and VIP Entertainment to raise money to build the stadium were derailed last week by the master developers, as well as Farren’s problems financing the project.
One Loudoun, which owns the land on which the stadium is planned, terminated its lease with Farren and the Loudoun Hounds baseball team and sued the team’s parent company to have the lease declared void. One Loudoun also sought $500,000 in damages to cover improvements it made on the land.
Meanwhile, Farren sent a letter to investors saying he’d laid off employees, closed the team’s offices and had run out of money.
Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. The Hounds are out.
Not so fast, Farren said Tuesday. After weeks of deflecting phone calls, he emerged to say that the Hounds were not dead. Investors and county officials were encouraging him not to give up, Farren said.
But virtually every other principal in the stadium-Hounds saga said Farren is out. New players and new projects began to emerge on Tuesday, some mysterious.
In 2012 there was leasing and a new location at One Loudoun fresh off the heels of a wildly popular Fanfest celebration that drew nearly 10,000 fans.
That ambition came apart Aug. 27 when One Loudoun's developers filed a complaint seeking to end VIP's three-year effort to build a stadium and bring professional sports to Route 7.
"We have taken legal action to terminate the ground lease," said Bill May, vice president of Miller and Smith, developers for One Loudoun.
Bob Farren the president and CEO of Virginia Investment Partners LLC stood firm, still believing in the viability of his project.
"We're still plugging away. We still believe," he said, going on to deny the allegations One Loudoun has made.
Court documents from the complaint say VIP has "no hope of obtaining the bona fide funds for the stadium project," and that VIP "now refuses to acknowledge the loss of its tenancy interest in the stadium property."
The documents also said that VIP has not been able to deliver a stadium at Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway by April 2014.
According to the documents, the complaint was filed as a way to "remove that obstruction so that a landlord can now search for a partner who can help achieve Loudoun County's dream of professional sports."
Plans are in place to find new owners to lead the effort to bring professional sports teams to Loudoun, according to May.
VIP had struck deals to bring a minor league baseball team, the Loudoun Hounds, to the stadium, as well as working on a tenant agreement with a North American Soccer League team named the Virginia Cavalry FC.
"Within a month's time we'll cast a net to see who is out there," said May speaking about other potential franchise owners.
May has made it clear that Miller and Smith has no desire to own the team, and would instead like to find a partner to own the team.
Including the infrastructure on the ground and zoning costs, Miller and Smith have put in nearly $6 million to prepare the area for a stadium, which explains the interest the development has in making baseball happen at the site.
The Atlantic League also still wants to see a team in Loudoun. "We remain interested in the market," said Frank Boulton, the founder and senior vice president of The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball's executive committee.
However, Boulton said he has not had contact with Farren in more than a month and that "we have no relationship with the Hounds right now."
As for the other tenant at the stadium, the Virginia Cavalry FC, it was announced in a July press call with North American Soccer League Commissioner Bill Peterson that the team would not begin play until 2016.
Virginia Cavalry FC has been owned all along by Joe Travez, a Loudoun businessman and founder of Prototype Productions, a defense and emerging technologies company.
“As I’ve mentioned before, we are going through an ownership reorganization there. That reorganization is all but complete and we’re really happy about the group that’s being put together," Peterson told soccerwire.com.
“They have some other items they are working on, I would call them macro-items, that are close to the finish line and when they finish those deals there will be a full announcement introducing the ownership group and explaining in more detail why we made that decision to wait," Peterson went on to say.
Originally the ambitious $52 million stadium was to be built entirely using private funding, something no other team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball had done.
The original project has since been bumped down to a more modest $19 to $22 million project, according to Farren.
Many of the league ballparks were actually used as redevelopment projects in towns like Bridgewater, N.J..; York, Pa.. and Lancaster, Pa, qualifying them for public funds.
None of the eight existing ballparks in the Atlantic League in fact are privately owned.
Current baseball stadiums in the Atlantic League have cost on average $25 million. The median price for the stadiums is $24.2 million.
In March a judge ordered Farren to pay back $3.3 million to EagleBank for a previous loan. Two months later a garnishment of Farren's property was issued in relation to the judgment.
All of this was happening at roughly the same time Farren was attempting to secure funding for the stadium.
Some of the proposed money that was not coming from investors came from the naming rights to the stadium, which were owned by Edelman Financial.
"My understanding is that the project has ceased operations," said Ric Edelman, the chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services, going on to explain that the contract he had with VIP was contingent upon bringing the teams to Loudoun, therefore it was null.
In the event that a new owner takes over the stadium project Edelman said, "I think we would have to start discussions over with somebody hoping to build the stadium," speaking about potential naming rights to the stadium.
Some supervisors still support baseball in Loudoun. "We hope this isn't the end of the story just a temporary setback," said Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles).
Potential new owners would have a road relatively unobstructed to build the new stadium.
"There are no land use issues, because the land is already where it needs to be for the stadium," said Williams, who also shared his enthusiasm for the project.
Also, it would be hard to find a partner more hungry for baseball than One Loudoun.
The Loudoun Hounds have moved out of their Dulles offices and the organization's phones have been disconnected.