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!