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.