Gauging the voice of the people Monday night, it was clear: An overwhelming majority of Loudoun residents want professional sports in their county.
The only concerns revolve around where the sports teams should play and when.
Only 25 percent of the nearly 100 speakers during a Loudoun Board of Supervisors public hearing at Farmwell Station Middle School Monday opposed a proposed sports stadium at the in-construction One Loudoun development off Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway. Most of those detractors made a point to say they want baseball in Loudoun, just not at the proposed location.
The 5,500-seat One Loudoun stadium, if developed, will be home field for the Loudoun Hounds of Atlantic League baseball and Virginia Cavalry F.C. of the North American Soccer League, both franchises under the VIP Sports & Entertainment ownership.
As many observers anticipated, the Board of Supervisors advanced for action the ballpark application to its April 3 meeting, despite remaining concerns over how noise levels will be measured and enforced, whether more stringent restrictions on fireworks will be in place and why aspects of One Loudoun's expedited application have seemingly nothing to do with the ballpark.
The Loudoun County Planning Commission has already recommended the stadium's approval.
Leading opposition came from older residents who live in the nearby Potomac Green and Ashbrook neighborhoods.
“Why do people move to an adult community to begin with? They move there for peace and quiet, to avoid noisy teenagers or young adults partying until late at night,” a Potomac Green resident said. “We have a right to peace.”
“I think the stadium's a great idea, but not in the suggested location,” Jim O’Neil, also a Potomac Green local, said. “ … the economic benefits of One Loudoun stadium have become exaggerated.”
But while the first half of the meeting may have seen a mix of support and opposition, the second segment was swamped with residents urging the supervisors to approve the stadium for the county's younger generation, for the future.
“Our families, they need amenities like this,” said a Lansdowne resident who joined more than 4,000 petitioners supporting the stadium, compared to a couple hundred petitions opposed. “I want these kind of events here.”
Loudoun resident Dick Duvall said, “The thing I see that's most important to have the stadium here is for kids – our kids, our grandchildren in years to come … this will be a first-class operation, closely-knit.”
Key agreements between One Loudoun and the Hounds and the county thus far include: No more than 17 concerts that use a sound system beyond the standard public address system (though supervisors made clear they'd like to see a strict definition of what constitutes a concert); no fireworks between March 1 and June 30 as to not disrupt the blue heron bird nesting season; firework displays will be limited to 12 per year and only be held on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; and other restrictions on when concerns and games can be played.
“We are not lighting the neighborhood, we are only lighting the field … we've also agreed to ongoing noise mitigation …” said Colleen Gillis Snow, an attorney with Cooley law firm who's working with One Loudoun.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated it's extremely unlikely the fireworks would displace the blue herons, a significant concern from several environmentalists.
Snow also noted the stadium is being placed as far from residential housing as possible, with the closest homes in Potomac Green and Ashbrook more than 2,000 feet away.
The Loudoun Hounds stadium was originally part of the Kincora development roughly one mile east of One Loudoun, but Kincora's financing and transportation plan moved along at a snail's pace, and the Atlantic League pressed the organization for a 2014 opening. Largely because of Kincora's slow progress, the much-hyped Hounds have seen two delays in their opening pitch.
While some speakers during the hearing urged the board to “move the stadium” back to Kincora, the supervisors clarified during the end of the meeting they did not have that authority.
If the board approves One Loudoun and the Hounds' application in April, the question then shifts to whether the already twice-delayed ball club will have its stadium ready for the 2014 season beginning in May.
One Loudoun, a joint project of Miller & Smith and North America Sekisui House, plans to have a grand opening at the site this May.