UPDATE: The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that if the Commissioners approve the funding for the Stadium it will get an MLS Franchise (story HERE). MLS President Mark Abbot had this to say in the story “We’d like Orlando to be the next expansion team,” Abbott said. “We have in place a number of the factors that we think are needed to be successful, a strong leadership group and a strong fan base, but in order for a team to come here we need as stadium. So I’m here to express that enthusiasm to the commissioners.”
Tomorrow, the fate of MLS Soccer in Orlando falls in the hands of the 7 members of the Orange County Commission, wrapping up what has been an impressive PR Blitz by the Orlando City Soccer Club in it’s efforts to secure tax dollars to help fund construction costs for a new stadium needed to win the bid from the league.
There is a lot going on. Let me break it down for you.
It’s not just the Soccer Stadium: The stadium is only 1 part of the 94.5 million dollar venue package. Also attached are badly needed renovation costs for the Citrus Bowl, funds needed to complete the new Performing Arts Center Downtown and money for an ad campaign to drive more tourism dollars to the region. Speaking of Tourism Dollars.
No, we can’t use the money for anything else: These are Tourism Development Tax Dollars which are required to spent on initiatives to, well, develop tourism in Central Florida. Can’t use the money to put more cops on the street or maintain our roadways. There has been some buzz about opening up that argument in the future.
Can’t we use the Citrus Bowl for MLS Soccer? Like we’ve been doing.: City Soccer Officials claim MLS won’t give us a team without a new Stadium, citing the Bowl removes the intimate environment required for the game.
Can MLS Soccer work in Orlando?: Depends who you ask. We’ve had two Florida MLS teams fold in the past (none in Orlando) and we can’t sell out games for the Magic, our other pro franchise. Advocates claim that the popularity of the game has grown since then, and that’s true, they also point out that the stadium won’t be used for just Soccer but NCAA sports and concerts.
What are the possible benefits of building the stadium?It will put people to work. Construction would mean temporary jobs for contractors, engineers, developers. It’s also a 2nd pro team in Orlando which would raise the cities profile and should the team be successful, there would be long term economic benefits to other businesses in the region.
What are the drawbacks?: If MLS doesn’t work in Orlando, the City can pay a penalty and skip town, leaving us with an empty 20 million dollar investment. The club also doesn’t want to share revenue from naming rights to build the stadium, and is spending less for construction than other clubs have.
Who are the major players in the deal? I’m glad you asked.
The Orange County Commission
Scott Boyd District 1: Boyd was pretty high on the deal and can even be spotted in the celebration photo, after the tourism board unanimously approved the project. Since then, he’s requested that the deal include land for a Sportsplex in his district. It’s not a sure thing he’ll get it but the weight of the other projects in the package could win him over. Likely Vote? UNKNOWN
Fred Brummer District 2: He’s been opposed since the beginning and if you know Brummer, you also know he could care less about what anybody thinks. He’s also termed out with no political endeavors that would benefit from a greenlight on this. Likely Vote? NO
Pete Clarke District 3: The true swing vote. Clarke originally wanted the community to own part of the team and while those requests where applauded, the lawyers said no. He’s been mum on what way he’s been leaning since Likely Vote? UNKNOWN
Jennifer Thompson District 4: She’s been upbeat but cautious about the project. She would like the club to build some rec fields in her district to accommodate their community initiatives for the growing sport. She’s up for re-election this year and the thumbs up would help her popularity. There are also the other projects attached to the plan that could affect her decision. Likely Vote? YES
Ted Edwards District 5: Edwards has been the one asking the tough questions and the ones the club can’t answer. Still, he’s had the best poker face on the commission during these talks. Likely Vote? Unknown
Tiffany Moore-Russell District 6: Two of the projects are in her district and the pitch has the Paramore Community developing economically. She’s already tipped her hand that she’s a “Yes”. She’s also running for Clerk of Court next year and is supporting her aide to succeed her, they could both potentially be in office when their completed. This is a great deal for her. Likely Vote? YES
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs: She threw her support behind it after the tourism board (which includes her) voted unanimously yes. She’s been promoting the benefits ever since and it could be another step in her re-election if approved. She adds fiscal credibility to the project if it survived her scrutiny. Likely Vote? YES
Final Tally? 3 “Yes” 3 “Unknown” 1 “No”. My guess? Edwards and Clarke take a long look at that Citrus Bowl and either alter the deal to remove the stadium or more likely vote “Yes”. 5-2 the Stadium is approved.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer: The City Council may have already approved the project but, Buddy is still out there. Watching. Talking. Smiling.
MLS President Mark Abbot: Was suppose to be visiting all of the County Commissioners on Monday. If he looks each of them in the eye and says “I’m guaranteeing you a MLS Franchise if you build this stadium”, this thing is a lock.
The Seminole County Commission: They’ve already decided to award 2 million to the club if they meet certain conditions that could benefit their county too.
The City Soccer Fans: The County Commission meeting will be flooded Purple on Tuesday. Can you imagine what will happen if the Commission turns this down?
What do I think?:
I haven’t been a fan of the Soccer Stadium idea. I’d like to keep playing the games in the Citrus Bowl and I think the Soccer Club gets too much and doesn’t give enough back.
The Community wants it, it puts people to work, and it’s not just about the stadium, it’s about the Performing Arts Center (which has had it’s problems in the past) and that Citrus Bowl which badly needs the work, to keep those bowl games. It would be great if Boyd got that land, Thompson got those Rec Fields, and we need to have a discussion about using these dollars in other areas as well.
Until then? Approve It.
The Photo Op will be even more impressive on Tuesday if the Venues Package which includes a new Soccer Stadium gets approved