By Joe Budzinski
Some Loudoun residents almost got a surprising Christmas gift last year when, in barely two months’ time, a new 10,000-seat stadium had been announced, publicized, and treated as a done deal to be plopped down in their back yards with nary a single public hearing or vote by county supervisors.
That momentum hit a speed bump during the holidays when a planning commission raised multiple concerns over the fast-tracked project but, come tomorrow night, it might well be Christmas in April for stadium backers.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on a comprehensive plan amendment allowing the new stadium within the “mixed use” One Loudoun development on the south side of the intersection of Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway (the meeting is scheduled from 4:00-9:00 pm).
Whatever one might think of the project, it shows how quickly our elected leaders can act.
As of September 14, 2012, the stadium was still discussed publicly as part of Kincora for the Board of Supervisors’ 2013 legislative agenda.
On October 1, however, the Hounds were suddenly “Moving to One Loudoun.”
The Board chairman said “We’ve got to get the paperwork through as soon as possible…” and a representative of One Loudoun said “If you want to come early and have dinner, you’re going to be able to do that. If you want to stay late after the game, there is going to be other restaurants and entertainment within walking distance.”
In sales, it is known as the “assumptive close”: Before the
mark customer has decided to buy, you regale him with tales of how much more secure he already feels with that undercoating protecting his vehicle, how much easier he can sleep now during the trips to Florida and Maine, knowing he is now safe from salt damage.
Done well, it is pretty effective. But for the customer who sees through the scam, it is incredibly irritating. Those tasked with selling the ballpark employed the tactic assiduously.
By November, the stadium at One Loudoun even had a new tenant, as “home” to a soccer franchise.
Those with actual homes within shouting distance of the proposed facility were beset by innumerable public statements and prominent signage trumpeting the ballpark’s imminent arrival. Perhaps as much as the prospect of the stadium surprise materializing out of thin air, the sheer presumptuousness of those heralding its arrival evoked pushback from local residents at meetings with officials and on the Web.
Residents concerned about games and concerts adding to an already unbearable traffic snarl, about noise and light pollution, about diminished aesthetics and possible harassment of the nearby blue heron rookery were not given any solid reasons to doubt these things coming to pass, but instead were told simply the ballpark – you know, the one that is coming whether you like it or not – will be wonderful for all concerned.
They offered “a listening ear – and an outstretched hand.” Whatever the hell that means.
Cynics unswayed by the magical ballpark sales pitch might have been confirmed in their skepticism when One Loudoun’s ownership team took a “hey, while we’re at it” approach to the petition for plan amendment to allow a stadium, and added some additional requests to the wish list, which seemed to add a whiter shade of pale to the mixed-use already approved, evoking a vision less Reston Town Center and more Loehman’s Plaza.
Even the Board chairman said, “I feel a little bit taken advantage of.”
While it seems quite likely the board will approve the stadium – if not all the rest of One Loudoun’s requested amendments – at Wednesday’s vote, it also seems certain that at least one vestige of this years-long stadium sales campaign will raise eyebrows for a bit longer.
In the grand scheme of things, what is the mascot for the nonexistent team; nay, for the entire populace of a nonexistent “HoundsNation”?
Mascots are as mockable as mimes and creepy as clowns, so it was hardly an auspicious decision by Hounds’ management to launch “Fetch” to front the project.
But to bob along for several years festooning kids with Hounds chotchkies and t-shirts at made-up “fun days” and other events with the banners, moon bounces, hot dogs and portly baseball retirees for a team that does not even exist, not even on paper – because a franchise called the “Hounds” has yet to be awarded by the “Atlantic Baseball League” (sic) – well, that’s a pretty mock-worthy enterprise right there, and creepy, even before the teamless guy in a dog costume.
He was an odd, sad marketing decision, and one cannot help but predict that whatever the stadium’s final role in the community, Fetch will be no more than a lingering memory, having ambled off into the sunset, his work here done.