Major League Baseball bypassed Loudoun County, and John Owens doesn't mind.
"They can put it on the moon as far as I'm concerned," said Owens, a custodian who has lived in Loudoun for 66 years. "We got enough traffic and cars and stuff up here now."
But Mike Humphreys, a fan and loan officer in Leesburg who trudges to Baltimore's Camden Yards just once or twice a year, was hungry for a team nearby.
"A couple months ago, it was really looking like it was coming to Loudoun," Humphrey said last week when Major League Baseball officially made Washington the game's newest home. "I'm disappointed."
The end to Loudoun's improbable baseball quest -- which sought to persuade league officials to ditch their preference for urban ballparks in favor of an ambitious, but ever-shifting, suburban vision -- left mixed feelings in the nation's fastest-growing county.
Baseball boosters had promised that a new stadium would spur economic growth and give the disparate neighborhoods of Northern Virginia a sense of identity.
Backers could not put a dollar figure on the benefits Loudoun would reap by handing over hundreds of millions in stadium-generated revenue to fund ballpark construction costs and to subsidize team owners. And skeptics said the arguments about promoting community cohesiveness were bunk.
"That's nothing but Madison Avenue talk," said Supervisor James G. Burton (I-Blue Ridge).
But the most avid proponents maintained that baseball was a perfect complement to -- and would be a great beneficiary of -- Loudoun's breakneck development and wealth.
"The long-term success of this franchise [the Expos] would be achieved at a location in Northern Virginia, at the economic and demographic epicenter of this market, in the nation's fastest-growing county," William L. Collins III, who had hoped to buy a team for Virginia and bankrolled the state's efforts, said in a statement.
Supervisors Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), who kept a tight grip on county government efforts to help nab a team, continued his campaign through Wednesday morning. Just hours before baseball made it official that afternoon, and days after senior league sources had clearly signaled their intentions to move to Washington, Tulloch insisted that Loudoun's bid remained in play. The two Washington area bids offered stark choices, Tulloch said.
"The product D.C. has is different from the product Loudoun has," he said. "D.C.'s got an urban product. They also have a revitalization product." Baseball was deciding "what the future of baseball looks like," Tulloch added.
A final effort to craft a financing plan that didn't rely on state support for ballpark bonds fell short. Backers had hoped to add a final twist to a late-blooming financing plan.
Once it became clear that Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) had joined top Republican legislators in opposing putting the state's credibility behind the bonds, Major League officials asked Virginia officials whether they could simply give hundreds of millions in tax revenue from the ballpark to the league or to team owners, who would build the ballpark themselves.
If the team thrived, the league or team owners could also pocket hundreds of millions in extra revenue once construction costs were covered, according to that plan. But baseball didn't bite at their own idea. So baseball backers worked to find another private entity to take over the role the league would have played in such an arrangement.
According to Collins, his investors group found a way to give baseball all the assurances it wanted. "The Virginia Baseball Club stepped up to provide political and financial certainty by guaranteeing the financing and construction of the new ballpark in Virginia," he said. "Unfortunately, it was too late in the process, and Virginia has lost the most significant economic opportunity in a decade."
Burton said he was not surprised baseball chose the nation's capital, given the generous deal the District offered. "This is, after all, all about dollars and not baseball," he said.
Keith Frederick, chairman of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which was created by the General Assembly to lure a team and to finance a ballpark, said Virginia's willingness to hand over state and local ballpark tax revenue to a private entity as part of the project would have made it lucrative in the long run for baseball but would have been more costly upfront for the team's owners.
That's a key issue because the league's 29 owners own the Expos themselves and will directly benefit from a high sales price when the team is sold to a new owner. That, according to one participant, could be more likely under D.C.'s plan.
Laurence E. Bensignor, a trustee of Van Metre Cos. who took part in Virginia's bid as chairman of Diamond Lake Associates, said his development group would move ahead with plans to build a marquee commercial and residential "town center" project beside Dulles International Airport at the corner of Route 28 and the Dulles Toll Road.
"It is the right use, at the right place, at the right time," Bensignor said.
Although there will be no Major League diamond, and the firm does not control the quarry that ballpark backers had touted as their proposal's centerpiece lake, Bensignor said he was standing firm on the project's name.
"I think Diamond Lake has earned a name recognition in the county and is already perceived as intending to be a premier community," Bensignor said. "We'll go forward."