The long push by Bob Farren to bring minor league baseball to Loudoun County is facing another delay. The 5,500-seat stadium he plans to build in Ashburn, for both the proposed Loudoun Hounds baseball team and Virginia Cavalry FC soccer team, will not be ready when baseball season begins next spring. But Farren is still hoping to field the first Loudoun Hounds team in the independent Atlantic League in April, just not at the planned Edelman Financial Field in the growing One Loudoun complex.
“The goal is to begin playing in 2014 somewhere else,” said David D’Onofrio of VIP Sports & Entertainment, the ownership group of the Hounds and Cavalry. “Either full-time on the road or somewhere local.” Construction of the stadium is being done totally through private financing, at a reported cost of around $37 million, and D’Onofrio said the complexity of finalizing the financial details has pushed the completion date back to somewhere between July and September of next year.
The delay did not trouble the Atlantic League’s commissioner, Peter Kirk, who told me that the Hounds could still debut in 2014 even without a permanent home. “It can be done,” Kirk said. “We’ve asked the VIP people, don’t lose focus on getting the ballpark underway, because that’s the long-term hurdle. But think about whether playing in a temporary facility is something you’d like to do. If so, give us a plan…League policy is to leave that in the hands of the club.”
Kirk said there was no deadline set by the league before formally awarding a franchise to Loudoun. “I have no doubt the team in Loudoun will be a wonderful success, with the ballpark and the community support. It’s a fabulous area for families.”
The Atlantic League positions itself as a AAA-level league. Though none of its teams are affiliated with major league clubs, it does have former major leaguers such as ex-National Ryan Langerhans and ex-Oriole Felix Pie trying to make it back to the bigs, along with mid-20s minor leaguers still striving for The Show. Pie actually got called up from the Camden Riversharks straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates last month, and has played in almost every game for the playoff-bound Bucs since. On Aug. 20, he was playing in the Atlantic League.
The Hounds have a vice president of sports operations, Adam Gladstone, who will be searching out possible players early next year, beginning with free agent major league and AAA players who weren’t invited to spring training, and supplemented by players who are released in spring training and aren’t picked up by other major league clubs. More details on that process were posted by the Hounds here.
The Hounds originally planned to build their stadium in the Kincora mixed-use development, Route 28 across from the Dulles Town Center, and received zoning approval from the county back in 2009. But Kincora stalled, so Farren shifted the stadium to One Loudoun last year, at the intersection of Route 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway, and received county approval in April of this year, over the objections of nearby neighbors. Ground was broken in June. But then, to the naked eye, not much seemed to be happening.
D’Onofrio said the infrastructure for the stadium and parking lots is being installed, and that the concrete seating bowl for the stadium is being pre-cast elsewhere. Pre-cast concrete is formed in large pieces and then transported to a building’s construction site, where the pieces are then assembled. D’Onofrio said VIP anticipates the pre-cast bowl to be delivered soon and installed in the fall, with structural steel added after that.
“We have spent significant dollars,” D’Onofrio said, “on the zoning, the architecture, the development drawings. A tremendous amount of stuff is going on that people can’t see.”
But the stadium won’t be ready for Opening Day, which is mid-April in the Atlantic League. The season runs to mid-September, and the league is in its playoffs now. D’Onofrio said VIP hopes to have its temporary home, its Atlantic League status and its stadium financing all wrapped up in the next two weeks.