With late start, Loudoun United shifts its goals
This was supposed to be a big year for soccer in Loudoun County, but like other businesses, Loudoun United FC has needed to adjust its expectations.
In late May, the minor league team’s parent company asked the county’s board for deferrals on rent payments for its $25.6 million Segra Field stadium and training center, which opened last August at Phillip A. Bolen Park in Leesburg.
The reserve team for Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, Loudoun United was expecting to grow its fanbase this year after finishing 2019 with a record of 11 wins, 17 losses and six ties. But its 2020 season start was delayed from March to July due to the coronavirus.
“There [was] a high probability that there [would] be insufficient gate fees available to pay rent,” Loudoun United wrote in its request to the county, seeking to defer its 2020 rent payments. Supervisors voted 6-2 to allow the team’s parent, D.C. Sports Facilities Entertainment LLC, to defer its May and November payments of $621,000 on its $15 million lease.
“This is akin to having a landlord who has locked out the tenant but still expects the tenant to pay,” says Dulles Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau, who voted in favor of the deferrals. “This is a county facility. Whether the team pays us back or [not], we are responsible for that debt.”
D.C. Sports will repay the missed rent payments over the next six years. Loudoun County committed $7 million to the stadium, contributing another $10 million in December due to rising construction costs.
The extra expense and delay in payment were not without critics.
“What makes these taxpayer subsidies especially problematic is that the stadium consortium has ready access to billionaire backers, while our middle class and working class residents and our small businesses do not,” says Leesburg Supervisor Kristen Umstattd, who voted against subsidizing the stadium, as well as the rent deferral. “And yet, it is our residents and small businesses that are paying for these subsidies.”
The pandemic also has been tough for other professional sports teams in the commonwealth, including the Fredericksburg Nationals Single-A baseball team, which was planning to inaugurate the $35 million park in April.
But Loudoun United remains optimistic as its July 11 reopening approaches.
Says spokesman Zach Abaie: “We’re looking forward to getting back to Segra Field to deliver top-level soccer … and many other community events, once conditions allow.”