In what would have been its first full season in its new Leesburg, Virginia, soccer stadium, Loudoun United says the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to pay its rent. But the county treasurer says a proposed deferral prioritizes the team over small local businesses, and “is not fair to the citizens of Loudoun County.”
The board of supervisors’ finance committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to recommend the board amend the team’s lease agreement, which would allow the team to defer paying the $621,000 it owes in 2020, and spread the amount over six years.
County Treasurer Roger Zurn opposed the deferral, saying the county’s board of supervisors would be “picking winners and losers” by granting the team a six-year deal he can’t provide to county small business owners harmed by the coronavirus crisis.
“They’re going to be coming in, asking what kind of relief can we give them,” Zurn said. “The only thing I can do is offer payment plans that only go out to one year, at the max.”
Zurn asked board members to consider the message they would be sending if they approve the deferral plan for the team, which borrowed $15 million from the county to build the Bolen Park Stadium and Training Center.
“This is not fair to the citizens of Loudoun County — that’s who you’re supposed to be representing,” Zurn said.
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Board Chair Phyllis Randall cast the lone vote against the deferral, although she empathized with the team’s challenges, and said she would have likely make the same request.
“There are so many people who have to pay their rent,” said Randall. “I’ve been talking with citizens who don’t have an option, but who are in bad financial straits, and who have to come up with money — it wouldn’t feel like we’re doing this all together.”
Loudoun United’s chief strategy officer Samuel Porter told the board the pandemic couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the team, as it continues to build its training facility, which is also used by D.C. United’s Major League Soccer team.
“We plan on being there for 60 years, maybe longer, and this is really bad timing for us,” said Porter, who added that the team is continuing to pay the salaries of players and employees, many of whom live in Loudoun County.
Supervisor Matt Letourneau, the finance committee chair, who was instrumental in bringing the team to Loudoun County, supports the deferral, since the pandemic has scotched the team’s momentum after moving into the new stadium toward the end of last year’s minor league soccer season.
“This is not the National Football League, or even Major League Baseball — there’s not a huge wad of cash sitting there from prior seasons, where lots of profits have been made,” Letourneau said.
Letourneau said deferral “is a very reasonable and logical ask,” and he will support it when the board votes.
“Everything here is coming out of the owners’ pockets, and they’re trying to do the right thing by keeping their people employed, so that when we are ready to reopen, they can put a product on the field, and we can enjoy it,” Letourneau said.