Loudoun United Segra Field Unveiling

Loudoun United FC unveiled its new stadium name, Segra Field, in Ashburn in July 2019. Pictured, from left, is Loudoun Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer, Segra Vice President of Marketing James Nester, Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) and Loudoun United Chief Operating Officer Adam Behnke.

There were so many dumbfounding facets to the Board of Supervisors' Tuesday night funding item for D.C. and Loudoun United it's hard to know where to start.

But we'll give it a shot.

First was how seemingly out of nowhere the request from the sports franchise to the county for an additional $10 million came from. This $10 million is beyond the $15 million Loudoun County has already committed to help build the Segra Field complex, additional practice fields and offices at Bolen Park in Leesburg.

We wouldn't expect United officials to advertise their troubles, but we also didn't expect their woes to be so big so fast. Sure, there were many a tiny crowd for Loudoun United's inaugural season this year, but we figured that was par for the course for a new franchise just getting its footing. We certainly didn't foresee taxpayers having to contribute another eight figures to the project.

Also asinine Tuesday was fact the initiative was initially included on the consent agenda – meaning no discussion on the matter would've taken place had it remained there. Thankfully at least one supervisor – Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) – had the sense to pull it off consent so the light could be shone on the issue. Still, public discussion lasted just a few minutes, and most supervisors remained silent before signing off at the public's expense.

Can you imagine if the board swiftly agreed to send $10 million to a pro sports team without any debate and discussion? Yeah, unfortunately, so can we.

We were further aghast that the vote came in at 7-1, with only Umstattd opposing. (The vote likely would've been 8-1 had Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), a vocal supporter of Loudoun and D.C. United, been present.) A lame-duck board with a six-to-three Republican majority – several of whom call themselves fiscal conservatives – votes 7-1 to send $10 million to a private enterprise after already approving $15 million for said enterprise the previous year. How's that for principle?

It's projects like this that make cynics of government observers and critics of public-private partnerships. We know supervisors and county officials like Economic Development's Executive Director Buddy Rizer say they'll be made whole when it's all said and done. And maybe they will, but pardon us for being skeptical after this latest stunt.

It would be unfair to omit the fact the new funding comes with additions to the United-county partnership, including the introduction of the National Women's Soccer League's Washington Spirit into the equation. The Spirit will play several home games at Segra Field and move some operations to Loudoun, and the county expects additional marketing and branding beyond the initial terms of the agreement.

We could perhaps get behind these add-ons in exchange for the county coughing up another million, but $10 million is egregious.

It was further disappointing that no Loudoun United or D.C. United representatives attended the meeting to make their case. Certainly there's been wheeling and dealing in back rooms and on the phones, but it would've been a welcome gesture to see the organization's leadership explain themselves for the public record.

We've used these editorial pages before to rally and cheer on Loudoun United as a community project, a sports team we can finally call our own. We maintain our hopes for the team's prosperity – both on the field and in the bank.

But we can't endorse handing out another $10 million to a private enterprise so soon and with such little transparency.

(15) comments

Merp

This is utterly obscene. Taking taxpayer money and shovelling it to this junk when the are already up to their eyeballs in our money that they already managed to get their grubby hands on. When are you going to give these millions to performing arts? To varied cultural events, scientific speakers and exhibits...any number of things. Disgusting waste and a giant middle finger to taxpayers.

LetsBreal

This is abusing the tax payer. Stop spending our money on things you have no right to. I want nothing to do with this! Where do the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors come off putting citizens on the hook for subsidies to D.C. and Loudoun United?

amerigirl

The collaboration should bring big bucks to Loudoun. The United name is easily recognized, it not like they have to make a name for themselves to attract fans.

ace10

LOL

LetsBreal

That's not the point. The board decided to mandate spending $25 million on something **they** wanted. With 400,000 people in Loudoun, that's $60 for every person in the county that they decided to force pay this franchise. By what reasoning? This isn't a government function. Additionally, that $60 they take from the earner and redirected to that franchise is $60 that won't get spent elsewhere (movies, clothing, dining out, charity, or where ever the earner should have been allowed to decide where it be spent). If I made the case that giving $25 million in tax payer dollars to the NRA because it would possibly bring money back to the county, would you approve of your income (your private property in other words) being taken for that? This board is way out of their lane. They have no right to spend money for non-governmental functions.

amerigirl

Lets, if they are doing what their constituents want is not just "they". They are representing the people who elected them. How is that not the point? City, state and local governments invest in these types of things all the time with the expectation of collecting taxers and attracting tourism. Spent elsewhere? You are assuming that people in Loudoun wouldn’t attend or want to attend these functions. If you made the case about the NRA I would think you were Russian. It’s not even close to the same.

LetsBreal

The Board of Supervisors are not representing the people who elected them. They are confiscating private property through taxes on ordinary citizens for the whims of a soccer team, a team of 23 players, no less. $25 Million for 23 players! What is going on? This is not a legitimate government function. What I am assuming is that a private citizen that earns their pay should be able to decide where it is spent, not the Loudoun County Board of supervisors. That's how private property rights work. As far as your comment on Russia, this IS something that would have happened in the Soviet Union under central planning and control of the economy. We know how that turned out. How do you not understand that irony of history?

jke

Public private partnership or as the taxpayer gets screwed!

Mencken's View

Buona, Meyer, Higgins, and Volpe have nothing to lose, and a bit to gain, for this tip of the hat to "business profit at taxpayer expense," as they exit public life. Nothing they do now has any consequences. Not so for Randall, Saines, and Buffington--who must add this to their list of accounting for Loudoun's Future.

BobOhneiserEsq

I was professionally involved in evaluating the possibility of bringing in a new team to Cleveland after the team left for Baltimore. OPM is the rally call for sports team owners and they usually prey on naive bureaucrats who put more value on soft benefits like photo ops, sports clothing (remember the baseball ties given to prior BOS when they thought a baseball stadium was a good idea) and fake marketing expectations (remember the $250k given to Redskins so they would practice in Ashburn which is now Richmond) than formal ROI analysis. This is also done in places where voters tend not to show up in local elections. Just wait until we see the revised school board capital requests, new LCPS operating budget, salary hikes and new zoning rules custom built for large developers who sponsored these elected officials (except for Ms Umstaddt who clearly has real leadership capabilities. Don't vote - don't complain. :-)

Charles Houston

Average attendance this year: 1,381. Basically, who cares about them?

Chris McHale

At least the BOS Chairman receive a FREE scarf. Not surprising LTM doesn't mention her in this piece bashing the BOS.

Charles Houston

Oops. By "who cares about them," I meant the team, not the attendees.

Locojrt

This simple taxpayer said we would rue the day when the initial $$$fiasco started. All that money for a half-rate farm team when their are legitimate sports programs thar could use 100th if that money! We get screwed by Richmond on money, MWAA and Metro and NOW $10 freaking million just out the door, just like that! Is there no legal recourse, are there no "brass ones" in the Town to just say NO!

JayZ

I agree. Who cares about a third rate sports team? We have enough of sports everywhere including 6 TVs in the ever increasing number of beer bars. What this town needs is a real performing arts center not the TALly HO! Overpriced country theatre to bring out some culture so that theater groups and talented musicians don’t have to playy in schools!!!

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