After years of controversy and uncertainty over a plan to build a ballpark in Loudoun County, more than 200 officials, business partners and other community members gathered in Ashburn on Tuesday to break ground on a 5,500-seat stadium that will be home to professional baseball and soccer teams.
Officials also announced the name of the ballpark: Edelman Financial Field, the result of a business partnership with Virginia-based Edelman Financial Services. The stadium is expected to open next May.
The stadium will be home to the Loudoun Hounds, part of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, and the Virginia Cavalry, part of the North American Soccer League. Both teams are expected to start playing next year, according to VIP Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the two franchises.
“What an exciting day in Loudoun County,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) told those gathered for the groundbreaking. “I can’t wait until next year, when we can all sit back and hear those words: ‘Play ball.’ ”
The stadium, at an estimated cost of $32 million, will be constructed over the coming months in an empty field at Route 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway, officials said. The ballpark is expected to bring about 40 to 50 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs to the county and will also be used for concerts and other community events, officials have said.
The privately funded project endured a challenging process before arriving at the One Loudoun development. The stadium was first approved by county supervisors in 2009 as part of the Kincora mixed-use development, about a mile east of One Loudoun along Route 7.
But after funding and construction delays plagued Kincora, VIP announced in October that it would relocate to One Loudoun, a plan that immediately ignited heated debate over the chosen site. Many Loudoun residents and county officials welcomed what appeared to be progress toward a long-planned community destination, but others, including scores of homeowners in neighborhoods close to One Loudoun, immediately expressed concerns about noise and road congestion.
Some of those neighbors organized an opposition group and launched a Web site, No Stadium on 7, hoping to draw attention to their arguments against the planned relocation. Many also spoke at public hearings about the project, addressing county leaders with their worries about light and noise pollution, additional traffic and the possible effects of fireworks displays on a nearby great blue heron rookery.
But opponents to the ballpark were outnumbered by supporters, who said they would welcome a family-friendly gathering spot that would also boost tourism.
Loudoun supervisors agreed, and they voted in April to approve the two rezoning applications needed to clear the way for construction of the stadium. Before the board’s approval, the county Planning Commission made numerous revisions to the proposal in response to community concerns, including limiting the stadium’s maximum capacity to 10,000 spectators, as well as placing limits on the number of concerts and fireworks displays scheduled annually at the site.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, the project’s past turmoil seemed all but forgotten. The crowd of invited spectators enthusiastically applauded each speaker and admired mounted riders in formal dress who rode beside a pack of hunting hounds.
Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) briefly acknowledged the controversy that had surrounded the evolution of the ballpark.
“There have been bumps and bruises. . . . We’ve had issues, and neighbors had concerns,” Williams said. “We’ve worked through a lot.”
Over the next year, officials with VIP will be busy assembling the Loudoun Hounds and Virginia Cavalry teams, a process that will include professional recruitment, open local tryouts and invitation-only tryouts, they said.
Both teams will be ready for the ballpark’s anticipated opening in May, said Dave D’Onofrio, spokesperson for VIP.
Bob Farren, president and chief executive of VIP, told the crowd Tuesday that his dream to bring baseball to Loudoun began a dozen years ago.
“I’ve been waiting and practicing for this for so long, I can’t believe it’s here,” he said. “This is an extremely special day.”