WASHINGTON — It’s now official: Loudoun County has its first professional sports team.
The United Soccer League has announced Loudoun United will be the seventh and final expansion club to join the new developmental league for the 2019 season.
“It’s a big deal, and it’s a long time coming,” Matt Letourneau, of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and the chairman of board’s finance, economic development and government operations committee, told WTOP. “Having the team will bring people from all over the region here.”
In addition to a new 5,000-person stadium for Loudoun United games, the complex will have a total of four fields, including one for D.C. United, and two which the county will use for recreational soccer.
In bringing its soccer academy to Loudoun, Letourneau said the new site will become a hub of D.C. United-related soccer activity and opportunities.
“The major league soccer team will train in Loudoun County, they’ll have offices here, as well as the USL team,” said Letourneau. “Then with the spectators, for all the restaurants in Leesburg, and hotels, it’s a big win.”
Letourneau said the stadium can also be used for local high school graduations.
The fields will be built adjacent to Bolen and Loudoun Soccer Parks, located near Leesburg Airport, off Sycolin Road.
As the county worked to secure the team, some Leesburg residents have expressed concern about extra traffic
In addition to Sycolin Road, another option is Kincaid Boulevard, which has been closed by the town until Crosstrail Boulevard is completed, between Sycolin and Russell Branch Parkway.
Neighbors have been critical that the Board of Supervisors have not cemented a plan to avoid gridlock.
“I just can’t figure out how you put a 5,500-seat venue between two neighborhoods with no major arteries to feed the stadium, and not believe it’s gong to have an impact on traffic,” Kincaid Forest resident Byron Williams told the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
Phyllis Randall, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said “there are still some things we’re going to be working through and improving, and we have to work closely with the Leesburg town council about when to open the roads.”
“Could there be some more traffic congestion at first? There could be,” said Randall, although it would only affect the 2019 season.
“We certainly wouldn’t want to not welcome the team, this is a great opportunity for Loudoun County,” said Randall. “It will cement Loudoun as the hub of soccer.”
Letourneau said work on Crosstrail Boulevard, which is a connection to Route 7, “has been accelerated, it’s been funded, and it’s now under construction.”
“That’ll get you from Route 7 into Bolen Park” without having to travel through Kincaid Boulevard.
While working to address neighbors’ concerns about extra traffic, “Five-thousand seats is not a Redskins or Nats game,” Letourneau said. “It’s more akin to a busy high school football game.”
Letourneau said a county traffic study will be presented to the planning commission shortly, which will go to the Board of Supervisors for a land use application.
Loudoun United “is on a pretty tight timeline — they’re going to play for the 2019 season, so the Crosstrail connection won’t be completed, but that’s really just for the first season.”
For the first season, Letourneau said a “more aggressive traffic management plan in place for the beginning, but long-term this is not going to be a problem.”
Construction of Kincaid Boulevard is completed, but has not been opened by the town of Leesburg, over concerns from neighbors about cut-through traffic
“The agreement that’s in place is Kincaid will open once Crosstrail is open,” said Letourneau.
With months until the opening of the season, Letourneau said “We’re going to do everything we can to get the facility open in time.
“It’s a modular stadium, where pieces of it come together, already assembled. It can move much faster than what you’d expect,” said Letourneau.
The county is constructing the facilities.
“We have a lease with D.C. United to pay us back the cost of the facilities and what it’s costing us to sell bonds to build them,” he said.
Loudoun United Chief Operating Officer Adam Behnke, in a statement, said the agreement will benefit county residents in many ways.
“With a team to call our own, a local professional sports entertainment option and youth soccer players having role models in their backyard to follow to one day play at the professional level, we can truly create something special in our community.”