At a Loudoun County Board of Supervisors hearing Monday, a clear majority of more than 80 speakers voiced support for a controversial plan to build a baseball stadium at the One Loudoun development in Ashburn.
The auditorium of Farmwell Station Middle School was packed for the hearing, with more than 100 residents signed up to speak. Fifteen recorded comments, according to county staff. And most were in favor of the proposed construction of a 5,500-seat ballpark at the intersection of Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway.
The stadium cleared an initial hurdle earlier this month, when the county Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning applications necessary for construction. The Board of Supervisors is set to take final action on the matter at its April 3 meeting.
The stadium — which will be home to a professional baseball team and a professional soccer team, both owned by VIP Sports and Entertainment — was initially approved as part of the Kincora mixed-use development at routes 7 and 28 in Ashburn. Following a series of funding delays, VIP announced in October that the stadium would relocate about a mile west along Route 7 to the One Loudoun development.
The announcement quickly divided the surrounding community. Many Loudoun residents have enthusiastically welcomed the stadium, which they say will boost tourism, support the local economy and offer a family-friendly community gathering place.
But others, particularly residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the stadium, have expressed fervent opposition to the new location. Many homeowners in the neighborhoods of Potomac Green and Ashbrook have raised concerns about light pollution, noise and the impact of traffic on already congested local roads.
Some of those residents formed an opposition group, No Stadium on Route 7. Before the hearing Monday, the group posted a photograph to its Web site showing a sea of red break lights on westbound Route 7 during evening rush hour. That traffic will only get worse once the stadium is up and running, the group maintains.
Bill May, vice president of Miller & Smith, the co-developer of One Loudoun, has said that the stadium will actually generate less traffic than the office space originally planned in its place — morning rush hour would no longer be affected, he said, and people are more likely to carpool to a game or concert.
At the hearing Monday, Dan Wallen, who lives in Potomac Green, was among many who said that the stadium would be a welcome addition to the community — and a bargain for local residents.
“There’s one point I haven’t heard mentioned tonight,” Wallen said. “This is a private facility. There’s no tax money going into this. And as a taxpayer in Loudoun County, I think this is a really good deal.”
Many speakers said they were thrilled by the prospect of a local place where kids could go to concerts, see a ballgame, or even attend high school graduation.
Kurt Krause, a Lansdowne resident, emphasized the sense of community that a ballpark would bring to the county.
“There’s nothing more family, nothing more American, than baseball,” Krause said. “We have an opportunity for an affordable family experience… so why not here in Loudoun County? Why not at One Loudoun?”
But there were still more than 20 speakers who were eager to answer that question, reiterating concerns about the impact about traffic and noise on neighboring communities. Several speakers said they didn’t oppose the stadium itself, but believed it was simply in the wrong place.
Cathy Tulenko said she worried that the presence of the stadium and the resulting traffic would be a profound detriment to those who live nearby.
“Home values could be lowered, fire and ambulance services could be delayed with disastrous results,” she said. “Relocate the stadium.”
At the conclusion of the public input session, Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) noted that 64 speakers had expressed support for the stadium, 23 were opposed and two did not voice a clear opinion — a ratio of about three to one in favor of the stadium.