Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Preparations

Making preparations. This is the simple understanding that Orlando soccer fans should be making preparations for tomorrow's massive town hall meeting with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber. We broke the news of the meeting several weeks ago and want to bring you up to speed on the final details that are coming together for the event. We also want to take time to talk questions for "The Soccer Don" and see what you want us to ask if you are unable to attend or feel better with some blogger asking the question for you. Consider this your checklist for the town hall meeting; don't forget to pack extra underwear as always. Here is the information:

Date: Thursday March 1st
Time: Doors open at 11:30am and the event starts at 12:30pm
Location: Mojo Bar & Grill, 129 West Church Street, Downtown Orlando
Cost: Free to the public; Supporter groups will be selling "I <3 ORL" shirts at the door

Now let's take a look at the details we have gathered over the last few days and what to expect tomorrow.

We have been talking with Orlando City, the supporter groups, and local media and it appears that the turn-out numbers are still up in the air at this point. We have conformation on roughly 150 people that will be attending the event to show their support and to help bring MLS to Orlando. The big unknown is whether the general public is going to get involved with the event and how that will impact the number. Will students from UCF, Rollins, and other schools who have a break in classes Thursday make the trip downtown for the lunch time meeting? Will professionals working downtown duck out for a long lunch and come join the town hall meeting? Coverage of the event has been somewhat overshadowed by the All-Star game and Daytona 500 earlier in the week and the midday timing for the meeting is also a challenge. Let's get to the details of the event.

From our understanding, Don Garber will be meeting with Orlando City office staff, City and County mayors, and other local figures prior to and/or after the town hall meeting. We know that part of the presentation to the commissioner from the Orlando City staff will be on their progress since their last meeting/discussions in the fall. We have heard rumors that a soccer specific stadium plan may also be presented to Garber on behalf of the team for a location at the new downtown creative village or in the area around the Citrus Bowl. We know that the Citrus Bowl renovation plans are in the process of being revised to include improvements for Orlando City, but obviously a drive towards their own soccer specific stadium would nullify those modifications.

Upon arriving at the town hall event we expect Garber and team officials to give a brief presentation on the potential of MLS coming to Orlando. Garber has done these meetings before, most recently with the Miami Ultras in South Florida, but the event was disappointing due to poor attendance and poor coverage in general. The goal of the town hall meeting is to open the floor to the fans and press and allow for questions to be asked of Garber in a fairly informal environment. With this in mind we have been refining our list of questions that we plan to ask tomorrow in order of importance.

1.   Philadelphia was a blip on MLS's radar in 2006, the "Sons of Ben" were formed in 2007, the expansion Union were announced in early 2008 with a stadium plan included. A second MLS team in New York has been in the works since 2007 and some would argue that talks are no further along than they were 5 years ago, specifically with the stadium issue. How long will it be before MLS admits that the next expansion team will likely come from some city other than New York?

2.   With rivalries being a key factor to MLS's success in recent years and a reason behind the current unbalanced schedule for 2012, is it a deal breaker for Orlando to be admitted into MLS alone without another rival in the Southeast?

3.   Orlando currently only has one major professional sports team in the NBA's Orlando Magic. Portland and Vancouver also share their cities with just one other professional sports team; the Portland Trailblazers and Vancouver Canucks, respectively. If Orlando is on MLS's radar as a possibly expansion city, would the trend of single-team-towns in recent years make us an ideal candidate for the next franchise?

4.   You have said before that MLS has the potential to expand to 22 teams in the future, perhaps even 24. Once the 20th MLS team is announced, how long do you expect MLS will wait before announcing teams 21 and 22?

Those are our questions for Garber, what's on your mind? Post your comments below and let us know some of the questions you want answered. This article is an open thread on preparations leading up to tomorrow's meeting so check back with the comments often as we will be posting information as it becomes available. And don't forget, go to www.OrlandoMLS2013.com and sign the petition to bring MLS to our city!

10 comments :

  1. we have 1 hour.....with mr garber.....fans and local business should be bringing positives of this area to his attention and asking what WE the fans could do to tilt this in our favor not ask the man silly what if questions....this is and will always be a BUSINESS we need to show they can make a massive profit from this city...not worrying about who potential rivals are...

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  2. Are you going to come watch Orlando play today in the tournament against BK Hacken?

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  3. It would be great if people let their names (or nicknames) so we can respond accordingly.

    Anonymous #1 - Valid point and honestly the meetings behind close doors with the commish are for the "dog and pony" show from the local political and business leaders to woo Garber. We brought up the issue of rivals because Garber has stated in numerous interviews that rivals are driving the league. With Orlando's nearest MLS team being 850 miles away in DC United, the idea of fans driving to away matches becomes a problem.

    Anonymous #2 - We will be down at the Disney PSC tomorrow night to take in both matches. We are hearing that Garber will be there for the FC Dallas v Toronto FC match... and "The Professor" will be in the press box to bring you all the info!

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    1. I dont see where he would have an Intrest in a USL team Vs. a Swedish team....Im sure he will be at the Toronto V Dallas match...Practice Cone..this is Orlando the largest tourist destination on this half of the Planet getting people to come here is easy the airlines and trains have special rates plus other than the soccer we have attractions making it a vacation as well as a sporting event for those who come here....away matches Orlando has had limited experience in those the RUCKUS made a bus trip to the carolina's and the ILF sent a Handful to Dallas for an Open cup match..the focus should be.... ok mr. garber set the bar...show us the path to MLS then we ALL have to meet the requirements. a big fan turnout will be nice as long as we dont have 500 questions based on the assumption we have this in the bag...we need information from him .....not getting useless information WHERE ARE OUR SHORTCOMINGS SIR and what do we need to do and how fast to make our MLS dream a reality??.....ask him exactly that, otherwise its just another dog and pony show like he did in Miami in Jan.

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    2. Again, I'll try to keep this light-hearted because I appreciate the discussion.

      To say Orlando is a massive tourist destination is true, but to assume that because people want to come here that they would also want to go to see an MLS team in Orlando, that's a stretch. The team is not for tourists, period. Groups have tried this before, assuming that the 50M tourist that come here each year want to see professional sports. AAA baseball, failed. Minor league hockey, failed. UFL, XFL, WLAF; all have come and all have failed because they assumed tourists equaled fans. The whole reason the team plays in downtown as opposed to Disney is to avoid this history by attaching to the 2M people who call Orlando home.

      As far as the rivalries go, MLS wants another team within a few hours drive of another team. The Cascadia teams; 3 hours between Portland-Seattle and Seattle-Vancouver. Chicago-Columbus, Chicago-Kansas City, Montreal now being added to the Toronto's neighbors. It's good for the sport and we see their point. In our "off the record" talk with people familiar with MLS, the majority think that the southeast will be a package deal where two teams join at the same time i.e. Orlando and Tampa or Atlanta.

      As for addressing specific requirements, here's one. 10k season tickets sold. That is the magic number that MLS strives for with current teams and has suggested as motivation to potential expansion teams. Having people place deposits "in good faith" for season tickets once an MLS team is award speaks huge to the city's commitment to MLS. We aren't at that point yet, but if City expects MLS to be leaning in their direction I would expect a season ticket drive to happen.

      Again, your comments are great and it helps get people talking which is what we want. Thanks for following our blog!

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    3. Thats because NO ONE has contacted the other supporters groups as well as travel agencies and put together package deals using the rosen plaza ( sponsor) legoland (sponsor) and a suitable travel agency it could work if the time is take BEFORE hand using this as a stratergy not thrown together at the last moment...Well...season tickets are more difficult...the team wants to sell more but rasied prices after the first year.( not condusive to getting more people)

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  4. Is a renovated Citrus Bowl enough for a franchise similar to CenturyLink Fields setup? If not, what are the reasons?

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    1. We've discussed this very issue with team owner Phil Rawlins and he has stated that their "current" plan is to renovate the Citrus Bowl and use that as a short term SSS for the team. More recently we have heard that the team is looking at a plan for a new SSS prior to earning the expansion franchise. Likely it will be a play a couple years at the Citrus Bowl then move to new digs situation if the new SSS talk is true. Having been to several matches in Seattle, the atmosphere is incredible from the pre-match march, to the team band, to the number of fans. It would be nice to think the Citrus Bowl could have a similar feel, but I think that is a stretch and honestly Seattle might be the only team who can pull it off.

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  5. These days businesses are afraid to commit on "might-be"" promises. What can the MLS say or do in these hard economic times to show good faith and to let these businesses know the conversation isnt just "friendly talk" where they are convinced to be just as invested as the club?

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    1. Another great point. With Orlando City signing an Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with MLS several months ago, the talks are a little more than casual bar talk. But MLS has done this before and has other groups with NDAs (like the potential NYC2 owners) in the pipeline. The league has expanded based on doing their homework in advance, that is the period we are in right now. The team has said 2013 is possible but a stretch and that 2014 would be a better goal for MLS expansion just from a business stand point. I wouldn't expect MLS to throw a bone to any local businesses as far as promises go, remember, they have plenty of suitors lining up for a team.

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