Monday, August 20, 2012

Orlando City Stadium Deal?

It's no secret that Orlando City is trying to become the next expansion franchise in Major League Soccer. But what might be a surprise is just how close the team might be to announcing plans for a new soccer-specific stadium in Orlando.

While recent reports out of New York City have Mayor Bloomberg and MLS commissioner Don Garber "very close" to completing a deal to build a new $300M stadium in Flushing Meadows, Orlando City's front office has been quietly working with MLS, Orlando's Mayor, Orange County's Mayor, and private financers to finalize a plan of their own. 

Sunday evening, the Orlando City staff were in Houston to visit BBVA Compass Stadium and meet with Dynamo officials to discuss their team structure and stadium plan. The team posted pictures of their trip on Facebook and Twitter throughout the evening causing supporter groups to go nuts over the possibilities. I realized something was up when my mailbox start filling with emails with various names like "Orlando Stadium" and "MLS Stadium", so I sat down and started working my sources to get you the latest information, some of which even surprised me.

First, the trip to Houston was planned well in advance and involved most of the top officials from both Orlando and Houston's front offices. As we've mentioned countless times before, the Dynamo's new stadium was built at a total cost of $95M and is considered the ideal model for a new stadium in Orlando. However the Houston trip was just the start. I confirmed with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's office that he will be accompanying team officials to Kansas City from August 26th-28th to meet with Sporting KC officials as well as MLS executives. While the Mayor's nor Orlando City's offices would confirm the specifics of the meeting, my understanding is that it will be a sit down presentation with MLS to go over stadium specifics in Orlando.

Next, it is my understanding that MLS has had regular monthly teleconferences with Orlando City's front office regarding the stadium issue. This is not unique to Orlando, several other teams including interested parties in New York City, Minnesota, and Las Vegas have been given the same luxury. The unique aspect is that these meetings have become more regular and involving higher level staff with MLS, up to and including MLS president Mark Abbott. While I couldn't confirm that Abbott would be in Kansas City during the team's trip at the end of the month, the assumption (and it's just that) is he will be there as-is typical for presentations of this nature.

Continuing on, it is my understanding that discussions on a specific stadium location in Orlando are in the final stages with it being a difference between two potential sites, but in different areas. If you remember back to our last article with Orlando City president Phil Rawlins he mentioned how he had been in regular discussions with Orlando's Mayor Dyer as well as Orange County's Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Word is both Mayors are pushing for sites most advantageous to their respective focus areas; Dyer is pushing for downtown while Jacobs is pushing for the convention center area. The specific sites are perhaps the most "tight-lipped" part of the entire stadium discussion, for obvious reasons, but this is what I have been able to gather.

Proposed Site by Convention Center
(Courtesy of Orange County Appraiser)
- Click to Enlarge -
The site preferred site by Mayor Jacobs is a 29 acre county-owned site adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center on the south end of International Drive. The site was most recently tied to a bid by local business man, Armando Gutierrez Jr., to build a 5,000 seat baseball stadium to lure the New York Yankees minor league team away from Florida. Jacobs turned down the proposal last July stating, in more or less, that it was a bad deal for the county. One point she offered during the hearing was that the stadium would be too small to benefit the convention center as a potential "add-on" venue. It appears that the same parcel is the one that Jacobs is focused on drawing Orlando City into using for their stadium. The site is at the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 528 which would offer plenty of accessibility, if it weren't for all those tourists in their rental cars. The site is bordered by SR528 to the North, I-Drive to the west, SeaWorld's Aquatica to the south, and a residential community to the east. It is my understanding that the county would donate the land to the team for the stadium with an agreement for mutual use of the facility, a combination of soccer matches, concerts, and convention events.

Proposed Site by Citrus Bowl
(Courtesy of Orange County Appraiser)
- Click to Enlarge -
While we highlighted a potential, privately owned 6 acre site adjacent to the Lynx Central Terminal downtown, it appears the site discussion has shifted further to the west. While the City donated prime real estate to at the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 408 for the new Amway Center, the downtown site seems to be focused on city-owned land around the Citrus Bowl. More specifically it's the 10 acre site at 429 South Rio Grande Avenue immediately to the east of the Citrus Bowl. The site is currently a parking area for the stadium, ironically used by Orlando City supporters for their pre-game activities. The site would be bordered to the north by South Street and would require Colyer Street to be eliminated through the middle of the property. The idea is to put another "anchor" at that end of Church Street to help push forward the city's plans to grow downtown westward through Paramore, whether people want to or not. While not as close to downtown as fans would have hoped, the site does offer easy access from around downtown along with experience in hosting big sporting events. The deal for the team would be similar to the convention center site, the city would donate the site but likely without any mutual usage agreement.

Lastly, the information I could gather is pointing towards the team likely making a public announcement on the stadium plan in the October/November time frame. While working out the site location and financing are very big pieces to the schedule that cannot be ignored, Rawlins has told us previously that his goal is to gain membership in MLS for the start of the 2014 season. With a building schedule of 16-18 months similar to that of Houston's new stadium, if a shovel went in the ground this winter the stadium would be ready sometime early into the 2014 season. Although 2015 is probably more realistic, the goal of getting the stadium plan on the table for MLS to digest is  important and will likely happen soon.

Hopefully this "unofficial" stadium update provides supporters and people from Central Florida with some insight in the process and some knowledge that team and local officials are working hard to bring top-level professional soccer to the area. In the meantime, Orlando City starts their push towards repeating as USLPRO Champions with their semifinal playoff match on Friday August 31st at the Citrus Bowl. While you can't put a shovel in the ground and start building a new stadium on your own, continued support for the team only helps the cause so get out their and be a part of history. 

32 comments :

  1. The city idea fits with one of the ancillary ideas of Downtown Master Plan 3, which was the gentrification of Parramore to build a new urban corridor bridging Amway Center and the Citrus Bowl.

    The county idea is personally advantageous: I live only 10 minutes away from that site.

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    1. It's Orlando CITY not Orlando way out in the county.

      A site right next to where the team currently plays, they would be foolish to not choose this option if the Lynx Central Station option isn't available. The fanbase is already familiar with it.

      If MLS has learned one lesson, it's that stadiums close to downtown are a success (Seattle, Portland, etc.) whereas stadiums out in the middle of nowhere draw 13k (Dallas, Colorado). Tourists are not going to a soccer game, they need to get that idea out of their heads right now. Build up a young professional fanbase, which means downtown, near public transportation, near bars and restaurants, etc.

      Don't screw this up...

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  2. Solid Article - Looking forward to hearing more on this and I have to be honest between the two sites the one nearest the Citrus Bowl makes the most sense for the club and the city. This should get supporters ignited to start handing out literature in the off season to help attendance for the 2013 season.

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  3. How will OC overcome NY when it's a done deal. NY #20

    It could be 2014 or 2015 NASL franchise.

    SA is way ahead of you guys anyway.

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    1. As we have covered before, both MLS and team officials have stated that's Orlando's path to an expansion team is not tied to the efforts for NY2.

      And I would have to say sticking a third team in Texas is worse of an idea than a second team in NYC.

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    2. So you resort to anonymously trolling other Orlando sites, Whitestar?

      1) NYC2 is (a) not a done deal, and (b) will take far longer to build. The earliest I've heard is 2016, and that assumes they hammer an agreement out this year. Plus, Wilpon's closed the door on allowing MLS to temporarily use Citi Field, so they don't have any other options before then.

      2) If San Antonio had any sort of near-term chance, even with the Scorpions' flash in the pan this year (if they're so big this year, why were you panning us our first year), then Phil Rawlins would've never left Austin.

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    3. Orlando and San Antonio should probably be rooting for each other rather than against, because there's not much way the league will be going to 21 teams.

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  4. Thank god "Anonymous" (if that is your real name) is here to set the record straight. The Cosmos are only going to be an MLS team because Garber has a hard-on for them. They should have to earn it just as OCSC has done not be grand-fathered in because of what they were in the 70's. Orlando will be one of the next 2 to be inducted, because we have the best team and the best management outside of the MLS and the results to prove it. Not to mention the fact that an organization in the Southeast is more attractive than a 3rd in Texas.

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  5. San Antonio is way ahead of us in terms of entering a regional market with two MLS teams already, which means they probably have little chance.

    If you read other articles, you'd know there's no reason to move to the NASL. There's no real difference in the quality of play (the higher number of USL teams progressing through the Open Cup suggests the USL might even have a higher quality), and the USL is cheaper to be a part of.

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    1. There is no "regional market" that encompasses Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. They are farther away from each other than DC, Philadelphia and New York.

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  6. Great article.

    I've got to say that I really dis-like the idea of a stadium tied to the convention center or anything down in the I-Drive area. Not to be too much of a chauvinist, but that's not Orlando - that's Tourist Hell (and please don't anyone start with the "Tourists will go to games". They won't).

    If the goal is a team that the community can relate to, then downtown makes more sense to me, although I'd rather see the stadium much closer to the center of downtown than the site mentioned above.

    If it were a choice between the two that I had any influence on, I'd raise my hand for the Citrus Bowl site.

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    1. I agree - I won't go as far to say it isn't part of Orlando but I will say that "tourists" won't be the core supporter base of Orlando. The stadium needs to be in the heart of Orlando - the closest we might get is the Citrus Bowl location. The presence of the club in that locale would boost the local economy in the downtown area - The I-Drive cooridor already benefits from the Tourism Money and Tourism Tax Dollars. I believe the Citrus Bowl location is a win win for (1) The Community and Local Businesses (2) Supporters and Fans (3) The Club (4)Location Location Location [Centrally Located} (5) Revitalizes the Downtown District and meets the MLS Downtown Requirement. Those are my thoughts and opinions. Both locales have pros and cons.

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  7. So having the aforementioned downtown location next to the "Hall of Justice"(ha ha) is out, eh? Sucks to hear, but at least some kind of planning is being done. A downtown venue there would've really been amazing, especially given a march to the match on Orange Avenue from the pub/restaurants there. Plus, it would've helped the ailing Church Street area immensely. Maybe that kickstarter idea as a possible petition sway for a stadium there was a better notion than I thought... anyway, I'm repeating myself from previous comments.

    In a more direct response to this article, I would've hoped Orange County would put forth a better location than the I-Drive Corridor(at that particular section). Perhaps something closer to Pointe Orlando or east of the Convention center?
    City of Orlando's spot next to the Citrus Bowl would be nice to keep familiarity with current OCSC visitors; but the area is still rough. It's a decent "walk" to any relative businesses to the product(sporting/concert venue), and those that are nearby, wouldn't gather much more attention & new patrons than they do now. Add in the obvious sentiment of "Why build a new stadium there when the decrepit Citrus Bowl lurking like a failed monument in the background still exists?" Plus, the parking would need to not only improve in that area but be safer to obtain than just trusting some random nearby residence for $10+. I'm fairly certain City of Orlando and Orange County jurisdictions have better locations within price range or efforts; but maybe they'll be swayed to reconsider even more when they visit Kansas City's Livestrong Sporting Park. BBVA Compass should've been enough(at least for me after seeing Scoring Third's last article and proposal); but an added push couldn't hurt, I guess.

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  8. Put it by the convention center, tired of that guetto side town.

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  9. Deffinetly would have to say the Citrus Bowl site would be the best, plus im sure they could cut construction expenses by contracting the same company's who will do the Citrus Bowl renovations near the same time. I personaly dont think the I drive area is the right place though, its just not a place us residents like to go. Plus the team is Orlando City, so it should be in the city. And as mentioned there has always been the idea of the Parramore revitalization down Church Street. This would deffinetly help that cause, because we all know it needs to change and can be done. Although I do think a stadium closer to downtown would be better, what is the issue with the site a block west of Amway? any idea?

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  10. Plus we should all deffinetly write to the mayors to give our input and keep our city tradition, Citrus Bowl location.

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  11. Neither of those sites are very good. Politicians need to step up and give City the site downtown it needs to be special. The lot is there. No building is standing. Make it happen.

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    1. Well lets show that we care where our stadium will be and tell them what we think. I agree 100% City location would be the best, but there are very few sites that are plausible, all that are owned privatly. It needs to be a CITY ownded location (not county. And we all know its easier getting into the city around gametime then getting out so why would we want to sit in I4 traffic going the games? I just really hope we can do what we can to keep it out off the tourist hell hole called I drive, so tell Dyer he NEEDS to keep it in the city and tell Jacobs that we thank her for her support and everything, but suburbia or tourist areas isnt going to cut it for the people of Orlando, Orange county, and the rest of central Fl.

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    2. The team has said it from the beginning, they want more fan-driven initatives. Whether it's a Kick-Starter effort or something else, if the fans what the stadium in a certain place they should step up and do something. We tried to do this through our OrlandoMLS2013.com site, and were able to get 600 plus signatures, but then things dried up. If you want our help we are onboard, just let us know.

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    3. I just sent an email to both majors explaining my thoughts as a supporter on the stadium an how a downtown stadium is necessary not only for success, but also for full support from its fans. Long story short, atmosphere, driving, and parking is better downtown, not to mention the bars and restaurants in the area that will benefit. So dont let me be the only one who writes them... And yes Practice cone, what could I do to get onboard?

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    4. Writing to the mayor's is great, but since the issue comes down to money, it might be a long-shot to get them to change their minds from free land to land at a cost.

      I guess you could roll down to North Orange Avenue with a sign that says, "Future home of Orlando City Stadium", and stick it in the ground on that vacant lot next to the Lynx Station. That would get people talking. Get a picture of it and maybe we could do an article?

      The team, city, and county are in a tough postion because of non-disclosure agreements and things of that nature. If the location is revealed in advance, the price of private land that the city might need for the stadium would go up in price.

      I wouldn't rule out the site adjacent to the Lynx station, Rawlins said he couldn't discuss that site when I asked him previously, but with a price tag around $8M that's a lot for a lot. Ha!

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    5. Understood. Im not at all against the Citrus Bowl site, more against the thoughts of somewhere around I drive. That just seems counterproductive to me to build hometown sports stadiums near an area most residents hate. Anywhere within 5 minutes of downtown is okay since I know theres no way we can be picky. But thats the main issue to me, im just hoping the county doesnt try to steal our team and put them way out of town because of money issues or bonds needed for the stadium. Or possibly because of the Citrus Bowl renovations, ect. But doesnt Garber say that a downtown location is necessary for MLS?

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    6. In the end, the stadium will be in a downtown location, probably somewhere between the Amway Center and the Citrus Bowl.

      My understanding is that public money won't be involved with the exception of land and perhaps some money for infrastructure improvements, less than $10M in land and assistance combined. The 18,500 seat stadium price being thrown around is $70-80M which is in line with the $80-85M Houston paid for their stadium (without land costs).

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  12. I agree that the stadium needs to be built in downtown orlando. Thank you Teresa Jacobs for being so supportive!!!! However it would be to the teams detriment relocating to the international drive area..Downtown Orlando is so much more convenient...albeit im not crazy about the citrus bowl site either, it is kind of downtown.. Besides the stadium will be minutes away from where Sunrail brings in potential fans from the north and south and orange blossom express will bring fans from Eustis, apopka, Winter garden, ocoee, etc... Both commuter rail trains will link up at the LYNX central station...Has anyone considered the plot of land behind the Wachovia High rise just off Orange ave.. Its a no mans land of sorts. 2 blocks from the old Sheraton Hotel...by Chapulin

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  13. I echo most of the responses here. The stadium needs to be downtown even though IDrive would be closer for me. Please please just don't put it in the ghetto. My 5 year old son loves to go to the games and that is not a safe place for him to be at 10 pm. They have been talking about revitalizing for 20 years. It won't happen anytime soon unless they seize all the property between Citrus Bowl and Amway. I really like the idea of placing a sign in the ground and taking a picture. Let me know when and I will be there. Heck we should plan it and tip off the news to get some real publicity.

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  14. I'll be happy where ever they decide to build it. I think downtown is easier to get to since its in the middle of the region and has the sun rail coming soon but lets face it, I wouldn't wanna be hanging around the citrus bowl at nite, not such a nice area, plus its small.

    But check this out, I happen to be a lifeguard at aquatica, I see that vacant lot they were talking about from the top of the slides every single day, so I'm VERY familiar with that site. I-drive may be full of tourists but the area is much nicer with plenty of places to go after games, and this is almost 3 times bigger than DT. Lets be honest, sports teams need revenue from ticket sales and sponsors to survive. What does I-drive have that DT doesn't? TOURISTS, especially british and brazilian tourists that come here to spend MONEY and ARE ABSOLUTELY CRAZY ABOUT SOCCER, they will definitely come to games. I'm sure all those restaurants on I-drive, as well as theme parks like Seaworld and Universal would buy up a ton of advertising space. Plus its literally rite off the 528 exit that intersects I-4 about a quarter mile away, its pretty easy to get to.

    Don't be surprised if thats where they decide to build it. And I think its actually the better choice really. I'm all for it

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  15. The vacant lot that i was referring to earlier is half way between the Florida hospital sunrail stop and the downtown Lynx central station. Florida hospital area by the orlando science center is also considered downtown orlando, only thing is that its a bit disconnected to the rest of downtown. Placing the stadium in the vacant lot will effectively connect the Florida hospital area to the rest of downtown. I think its quite convenient because there will be access to the stadium from two train stops...Vacant lot is down where Marks street intersects with Garland Ave.. One block west from Orange Ave.. Mayor Dyer has been trying to connect the citrus bowl area via church street maybe he should consider connecting these two areas instead..Does anyone know who owns that lot???? By Chapulin

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  16. Not in the Ghetto people, it been since 91 (before the wc) that they want to fix that area, is not happening any time soon....I-drive sound perfect to me.

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  17. OCSC is making all the right moves, its time for the fans to step up and really show their support in the community. Too many people around Orlando still don't even know OCSC exists, that needs to change. We need to raise awareness before the playoffs are over because after the season ends there will be a 4 month lull where momentum will be lost.

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  18. Not IDrive... That area is enough of a traffic nightmare on a day to day basis with clueless tourists around the convention center, sea world, and pointe orlando. I would hate making the trek from the east for games, I would still do it, but it would be a drag. I'd take the "ghetto" citrus bowl location over IDrive any day.

    A new stadium could do wonders for the area, just look how quickly the Verizon Center transformed DC's China Town. In roughly a decade that area transformed completely into an upscale, gentrified part of the city. I don't see any reason a new SSS and fixed up Citrus Bowl couldn't have a similar effect here.

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  19. You realize that it is no coincidence that your mayor and owners are meeting the MLS here in KC (my home). They could have meet in Houston, Orlando, or NYC (MLS HQ). But they choose KC. Why, you ask? We happen to be home to the World's Biggest Sports Architectural Firm, Populous (populous.com). They did our beautiful stadium, LiveSTRONG Sporting Park, among many others (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populous_(company)). If I were you, I would try to get a contact in Populous. I hope you guys join us in the MLS soon, because I love Orlando and I want the MLS to expand, but not by making a second NYC team.
    Good Luck,
    Sporting KC Fan

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    1. Cough, cough. It's almost like you were there for the meeting today. Stay tuned...

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