The auditorium of Farmwell Station Middle School was filled Monday evening with Loudoun County residents looking to express their views on a plan to build a baseball stadium at the One Loudoun development in Ashburn.
Offering hours of input during the Board of Supervisors’ public hearing, a clear majority of the more than 80 speakers supported the construction of a 5,500-seat stadium at Route 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway. An additional 15 speakers offered recorded comments, county staff members said.
The county Planning Commission this month recommended approval of the rezoning applications that would allow for the stadium. Supervisors are expected to take final action on the project at their meeting Wednesday.
The stadium, which would 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. After a series of funding delays, VIP announced in October that the stadium would be relocated about a mile west along Route 7, to the One Loudoun development.
The announcement quickly divided area residents. Many people in Loudoun were enthusiastic about the stadium, which they said would boost tourism, help the local economy and offer a family-friendly community gathering place.
But others, especially residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the stadium, were fervently opposed to the new location. Many homeowners in Potomac Green and Ashbrook raised concerns about light pollution, noise and increased traffic on already congested roads.
Some of those residents formed an opposition group, No Stadium on Route 7. Before the hearing Monday, the group posted a photograph on its Web site showing a sea of red vehicle brake lights on westbound Route 7 during evening rush hour. That traffic would only get worse once the stadium opens, group members said.
Bill May, vice president of Miller & Smith, co-developer of One Loudoun, has said that the stadium would generate less traffic than the office space originally planned for the site. He said that morning rush hour would no longer be affected and that people would be likely to carpool to a game or concert.
At the hearing Monday, Dan Wallen of Potomac Green was among the many who said the stadium would be a welcome addition to the community, as well as 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 nearby place where kids could go to concerts and see a ballgame or even a high school graduation.
Kurt Krause of Lansdowne emphasized the sense of community that a ballpark would bring.
“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?”
More than 20 speakers were eager to answer that question, reiterating concerns about traffic and noise. Several speakers said they didn’t oppose the stadium itself but thought the location was wrong.
Cathy Tulenko said she worried that the stadium and the resulting traffic would be a profound detriment to neighbors.
“Home values could be lowered. Fire and ambulance services could be delayed, with disastrous results,” she said. “Relocate the stadium.”
Some speakers expressed concerns about the effects of noise, especially from fireworks, would have on a nearby Great Blue Heron rookery. Under the current arrangement, fireworks would be prohibited during the nesting season, which is from March 1 through June 30. Only 12 fireworks displays would be permitted per year, and they would be only on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, county staff members said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said 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.
Although some supervisors had additional questions on details of the stadium plan, several board members seemed most concerned to see that the pending applications also included a new phasing plan for office and residential components of the development.
The expedited review process should apply to the stadium alone, Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) said. Other phasing matters should be subjected to a thorough examination before being considered for approval, he added.
York agreed. “Mr. Williams and I had made it very clear that this initiative was about looking at the stadium, to see if it was a good fit for One Loudoun and the community, as well,” he said. “I feel a little bit taken advantage of in this process.”