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Updated 3/26/19: Ground has been broken on the new Loudoun United FC Stadium and DC United training complex:
Developing and diversifying Loudoun County’s rapid-growth economy has produced some pretty impressive numbers.
There is the record $10-plus billion in new commercial investment since July 1, 2014. There is the list of accolades where Loudoun County ranks No. 1, including the top U.S. median income for the last 10 years.
But not every important economic development deal comes with gaudy numbers. Sometimes community benefit can’t be boiled down to dollars and metrics.
On January 18, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved a Memorandum of Understanding on a deal with Major League Soccer team D.C. United to move its corporate headquarters to Loudoun County.
D.C. United joins the Washington Redskins, another major professional sports team already enjoying the benefits of doing business in Loudoun County.
The deal calls for construction of 40,000 square feet of office space, four full-sized soccer fields, a 5,000-seat stadium that will be owned by the county, and the creation of 50 new jobs.
As part of the deal, Loudoun will lease county-owned land at Philip A. Bolen Park in Leesburg, and debt finance $15 million to construct the stadium. D.C. United will pay rent that covers the financing and interest, with a lease for 40 years and an option for extensions.
“We would absolutely be able to recoup the cost, and I feel this is one of the better deals that we’ve done,” Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer told the Board of Supervisors.
D.C. United’s second-tier United Soccer League team will call the stadium home for 15 home games each season, starting in March 2019. That’s 15 times each year that fans, officials and opposing teams will utilize Loudoun’s hotels, restaurants and retail.
The USL is a pro league on the rise, with average attendance nearly doubling between 2011 and 2017 (2,300 to 4,300). The 5,000-seat capacity for Loudoun’s future stadium puts it in line with much of the rest of the USL, while D.C. United’s facility will be one of the largest in MLS.
Those figures are all easy to quantify. Loudoun Supervisors stressed that increasing the quality of life for residents and tourism opportunities were key to approving the deal.
The addition of the USL team gives Loudoun residents another option for family-friendly entertainment. This improves the quality of life for residents and gives business prospects another reason to move employees and families to the county.
“With Loudoun County, we have been talking for quite some time. We’ve had good dialogue with the board, but with folks that work on a daily basis for the county,” D.C. United’s General Manager Dave Kasper told SB Nation in early January. “We’ve put together a very good plan.
“We think this is a great county—a county that will support a USL team.”
The county will retain a suite at the stadium that can be used for business attraction and retention efforts. The county has successfully leveraged a similar partnership with the Redskins in recent years.
In addition, the county adds a state-of-the-art stadium that will be marketed for a wide spectrum of community events, including athletic tournaments, concerts, political rallies and more.
“I’m sure that everybody here has had the experience of traveling outside the county for a high school graduation, for instance, because there’s no facility or venue big enough to host it here,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau said at Thursday’s meeting.
Given its prominent MLS backing and proximity to major highways and Dulles International Airport, there is an opportunity to become a destination for major amateur athletic tournaments.
Attracting tournaments means additional tourism dollars for the county. In 2016 alone, Loudoun’s economy tallied $20.5 million from amateur sports, according to a study by George Washington University and Visit Loudoun.
Adding Loudoun’s first professional-quality sports venue to the mix will only enhance those efforts.
“It’s not really a real estate deal for the county, it’s a parks-and-rec deal,” Supervisor Letourneau said in early January. “What we’re trying to do is really create an East Coast soccer destination.”
Numbers are the baseline for any business decision, and this D.C. United headquarters and stadium deal are no different.
But bringing professional soccer to Loudoun County scores the hat trick of a corporate relocation win, increased quality of life for residents, and building Loudoun County as a world-class destination.