A long-stalled plan to bring professional baseball to Loudoun County can move forward now that the Board of Supervisors has approved two rezoning applications needed to build a 5,500-seat ballpark in Ashburn.
The stadium, which would be home to a baseball team and a soccer team, will be part of the planned One Loudoun development at the crossroads of Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway.
The baseball team, the Loudoun Hounds, will be part of the independent Atlantic League; the soccer team, Virginia Cavalry, will play in the North American Soccer League. Both franchises are owned by VIP Sports and Entertainment.
If the privately funded project develops according to plan, the stadium — estimated to cost about $32 million — would open in time for the 2014 season, according to VIP. The facility is projected to bring about 40 to 50 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs to Loudoun. In addition to baseball and soccer games, it would host concerts, festivals and other community events, with a maximum capacity of 10,000 people, officials said.
The stadium received strong support from the majority of the board at a meeting Wednesday. One supervisor, Kenneth D. Reid (R-Leesburg), said he continued to have concerns about the noise it might generate and abstained from the vote; the remaining members of the board voted to approve the rezoning applications. Supervisor Janet S. Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) was absent from the meeting because of a death in her family.
The ballpark was first approved by the board in 2009 as part of the Kincora mixed-use development at routes 7 and 28. But after a series of funding and construction delays, VIP announced in October that the stadium would relocate to One Loudoun, about a mile west along Route 7.
The announcement sparked controversy in the surrounding community. Many Loudoun residents applauded the prospect of local baseball and a coveted community gathering place. But others, particularly homeowners in neighborhoods adjacent to One Loudoun, were vocal in their opposition to the new location.
Those opponents organized a group called No Stadium on Route 7 and launched a Web site, arguing that additional light, noise and traffic from the stadium would degrade their quality of life. Some speakers at recent public hearings also raised concerns about how planned fireworks displays would affect a nearby great blue heron rookery.
But the critics were clearly outnumbered by supporters of the stadium at the most recent public session, where many residents said they thought the ballpark would boost the local economy and offer a family-friendly destination.
Bill May, vice president of Miller & Smith, co-developer of One Loudoun, said the stadium would generate less traffic than the 320,000 square feet of office space that was initially planned in its place.
Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) reiterated that claim Wednesday, noting that events at the stadium would begin after the evening rush hour. Several planned road improvements would also relieve congestion, he said.
Board Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) said he thought the concerns raised by community members had been sufficiently addressed.
“I am satisfied where we are with this,” he said. “I think at the end of the day we’ll have a dynamic project there.”
Bob Farren, president and chief executive of VIP, applauded the vote and said he was eager to get the project underway.
“I can’t wait to put a shovel in the ground and create a facility that will be a source of affordable, family fun for generations to come,” he said in a statement.