Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Orlando City Stadium: Behind the Numbers

The day of the much anticipated release of Orlando City Soccer Club's Economic Impact Study for their proposed soccer-specific stadium arrived with much fanfare and enthusiasm as several dozen members of the press gathered at the Amway Center to hear the presentation.

For several months now we have been reporting on the team's stadium plans but this represented the first time for many of the press in attendance, to actually hear and see some hard numbers from team representatives directly. Orlando City team president Phil Rawlins led the majority of the presentation, which lasted roughly 30 minutes and included input from Brian Parker, the project manager with CS&L who authored the study. 

While most of the media in attendance will have articles on the major highlights from the presentation, we wanted to present those figures but also do a little more explaining into what is behind those numbers so you're a little more educated.

Stadium Size: 20,000 seats with 25 suites and 1,000 club seats included

In our interview with Rawlins back in June and other occasions over the summer the stadium size was consistently stated as 18,000 seats. Only in the last month, as the study was finalized, has the number jumped up to 20,000 seats as we reported. The best explanation is that the study determined that the area could support a slightly larger stadium and/or the size increase would have a better return for other uses like concerts, football, and international matches. The model stadium that has been used on several occasions has been Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium which seats roughly 24,000, so Orlando's plan still calls for an initial stadium that's roughly 83% of that size. The plan likely would still go with a U-Shaped design with the option to fill in the opened end in the future to bring Orlando's capacity up to 24,000 as mentioned in this previous article.

Stadium Cost: $96.5M

Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer Club
The number presented today is only slightly higher than the $70-80M we have been hearing from Phil Rawlins and team officials for the last several months. The increase cost is likely tied to either the increase in seats (18k to 20k) or the increase in luxuries such as furnishings in the suites or video boards similar to those at Sporting KC's Livestrong Sporting Park mentioned here. The breakdown of the costs are shown in the figure on the left from the presentation. What isn't included in here is the cost of the land which almost certainly confirms our reports that the team will look to the city or county to provide the land and some minor infrastructure dollars.

Financial Impact: $1.2B over 30 Years

While this number is fairly unimportant to the thousands of loyal Lion supporters, it is a key statistic that the people in positions of power and the general public want to know. If the project is to get any funding from local governments the public will want to know they are getting a reasonable return on their investment. As far as this specific number goes for Orlando, it is in line with similar projects, like the Amway Center, based on size and construction costs. What isn't taken into account is the health of the franchise and MLS as a league and how those factors could impact attendance and overall financial return 10, 20, or 30 years down the road.

Attendance/Events: 687k people over 47 events annually

Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer Club
One of the highlights of the study was a slide that explained how attendance jumped for MLS teams in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal when they moved up from a lower division league. Rawlins pointed out that Orlando is already drawing 7,000 fans per match on average, a number that exceeds half of those teams mentioned in their final season before MLS. The study centered in on an average attendance of 18,000 for home matches which is the MLS established attendance goal for all teams/stadiums. The study conservatively went on to say that just 5 concerts would be held at the facility, a number which seems extremely underestimated since several MLS facilities host anywhere 15 or more concerts a year based on location and size. Rawlins mentioned during the presentation a goal of trying to lure other national events such as the men's and women's College Soccer Final Four games to the facility as well. Orlando's excellent climate year-round means the stadium would not be limited by snow or poor weather in the winter like other facilities up north.

Other Information

When asked by a reporter if MLS had promised Orlando City a franchise, Rawlins responded with "basically, yes." Everyone who has been following the team for the last year or so knows that the last piece of the MLS puzzle is the stadium issue and that MLS Commissioner said previously that, "it isn't a question of if, but when" for Orlando to get a team. Rawlins went on to say that we must act now because MLS will be adding two franchises in the southeast in the next few years and that Orlando wants to be one of them. If the stadium issue drags on, the potential for teams in Atlanta, Tampa, or South Florida to jump in and take Orlando's place could exist.

Perhaps the biggest theme that was driven home again and again by the presentation team was that this was not a request or a demand for a handout from tax payers. Unlike the ugly situation with the Amway Center where the City was forced to pay over $200M for their part of the new facility, Rawlins stated that the whole facility could be privately funded. However, the team would be working with the City and/or County to find a public-private-partnership (PPP) option that would help all parties involved. I believe the PPP will be limited to land and infrastructure, which would still put $60-70M of the burden on the private partners to fund.

No specific locations were mentioned though there is nothing in the report that rules out the Citrus Bowl lots and Convention Center parcel we mentioned in our stadium article in August.

So what should Orlando City supporters and fans take away from today's press conference? The stadium issue will now be receiving the press coverage that it deserves and as that happens you might start to see friends and family asking you about the team and stadium. You see, the study is as much of a report as it is a catalyst for change. Rawlins and the team know that making such a report public will put pressure on Mayors Dyer and Jacobs to act (in favor or opposed). In a down economy, the promise of construction jobs and hundreds of regular and part-time jobs at the stadium will likely mean more support from the community.

The time table for a deal is still six to eight months away in my opinion, that hasn't changed. The next step is narrowing in on a specific site and determining whether the city or the county will become home to MLS' next franchise.

18 comments :

  1. Excellent as always. I see 3 sticking points from the non-fan Orlando area residents:

    1. Tax money being used for an SSS.
    2. The failures of 2 other MLS franchises in Florida previously.
    3. Soccer as an irrelevant sport in the US.

    Obviously, all of these detractions are "perception" based, and often these perceptions are fueled by negative media attention (or the lack of any attention whatsoever) on an uninformed public. Phil did an excellent job answering the questions which were almost all about taxes and the public responsibility for this undertaking. He created a consistent and positive message when answering questions based in negativity.

    It is up to us as devoted supporters to keep spreading the word. Keep bringing our friends and families to the matches. Keep using social media to bring attention to Orlando City.

    Let's take our spot in the MLS!!!

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  2. Shawn - Valid points and frankly the team has done the right thing by confronting the "fear" and "miseducation" issues head-on. Rawlins addressed how Orlando carries "no baggage" unlike efforts to put MLS back in Tampa and Miami while also explaining that the league was at it's lowest low when the previous Florida teams were contracted. I think the running theme of Public-Private-Partnership showed that the team isn't looking for a free ride, just some help from the communities that will benefit from having a state-of-the-art new facility. There will be a lot of eye-rolling from the public as the City of Orlando is tapped out of money and is struggling to find funding for the Citrus Bowl and Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. Although the downtown location is ideal and what MLS wants, Orange County is the one with the tax revenue to be able and kick something in. We shall see...

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  3. NY will be #20 in 2016, any team can jump ahead. San Antonio is ay ahead of OC.

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    1. I needed a bit of humor today, and this was it. Thank you, Anonymous.

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  4. how is the failure of the previous two organisations perception based?

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  5. Just to respond to a couple of things:

    1. As stated a thousand times over, NY2 and Orlando's paths to MLS are independent of one another; Rawlins, MLS Officials, even Garber have all said this. The more interesting piece of news was Rawlins saying that the southeast will have two teams in the next few years, that means 22 teams total which will likely be the final number for a while. Perhaps MLS has realized NY2 may take more time and that another team could become #20, NY2 as #21 and Atlanta/Miami/Tampa as #22. As for San Antonio, great stuff, great team, but MLS will not put a third team in Texas before they get a presence in the southeast again, pure and simple.

    2. As for failure of the two previous Florida teams being perception based, I think it is an issue of categorizing their folding as league driven instead of team driven. 2001 was the lowest point for the league and Garber realized he had to stop the financial bleeding. While Tampa and Miami were the teams who got the ax, it could have easily been other teams instead if AEG and Hunt decided that way. The bottom line is that Orlando has no baggage, they will thrive or fail as an MLS franchise based on their own merits and not those of a previous franchises failure.

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  6. Is the economic impact study available online?

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  7. The Economic Impact Study is not available online as of yet, but the team should be coming out with an official press release on the study later today and may include a link to the presentation on their site at www.OrlandoCitySoccer.com.

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  8. Thank you, Scoring Third -- this news article was the only one on the internet I've seen thus far that wasn't "Sentinel'ed" to make it sound like the cost was squarely against the local taxpayers or a royal screw-job like the Amway Center fiasco.

    While the downtown locations were nice, the premium cost is a major hinderance. Also, I heard the lots near the courthouse were taken by residential interests. They will be apartments/condos, I'm told. I guess that leaves either the lot next to the decrepid Citrus Bowl(which will never see renovation at the staggering rate they're moving), or possibly the equally stagnant Festival Bay area near I-Drive.

    If it ends up in Orange County, I-Drive near SeaWorld would be a traffic nightmare, but it could be a decent draw for the tourist crowd due to ORLANDO CITY's current USL schedule. When they go MLS, it might be a bit rougher if we don't have evening games...

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  9. Ken - Thanks for those kind words. We can stand back and knock the Sentinel all day for their bias reporting, but it's pretty clear that our reporting is biased too, just in favor of the effort. Coverage by the Sentinel and other local news outlets is a good thing for the team unless it is flat out negative news. I didn't think the Sentinel's article was great, but it covered the key points and that's about it.

    As for the location, that continues to be my highest priority, trying to piece together the site location before it is made public. The site by the Convention Center is locked down, it's north of Aquatica and south of SR528. The downtown site(s) are still up in the air but I have heard the lots around the Citrus Bowl are the only choice being offered up by the City at this point. We shall see...

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  10. I have a question that I am hoping you can shed some light on.... Is it definite that the Citrus Bowl will be renovated in 2014? If this is the case, I thought the lower bowl will not be able to be used during renovation? Thus, OCSC will not be able to play matches there for the 2014 season. I must be mistaken, because I have not heard about this being an issue. Even if OCSC makes a deal for a soccer specific stadium, the time frame for completion in 2014 does not fit. Thank you for such an informative blog. I always look here first for accurate and up-to-date information.

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  11. So this settles it NY will be #20 in 2016

    http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2012-10-10/mls-plans-expansion-for-new-york-city-team-in-2016

    OC is an afterthought for Garber we should try and go to NASL first, I don't want our team playing in USL for 6 years, I'm afraid Rawlins is MLS or bust, he's sounds really pushy and you have to remember that NIMBYS will have a effect.

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    1. I agree. Are you really a OC fan?

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  12. Let me address the issue of the renovations to the Citrus Bowl and how that timeline relates to the new stadium/MLS. The plan is to start renovations on the Citrus Bowl in 2014. The renovations will have to take place during the spring and summer so not to interfere with the college bowl games in the fall and winter. My understanding is that the renovations (with the exception of the lower bowl modifications) will be accomplished in 2014. The plan is for Orlando to be playing in their new stadium and MLS by 2015. For that to happen the shovel would have to go in the ground before the end of 2013 if we are talking a design similar to BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston which was built in 16 months. Even if construction starts slightly later, the team can do an extended road trip to open the season similar to Sporting KC and Houston did with their new stadiums that were still being completed.

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  13. WhiteStar, I didn't know you were a fan of Orlando City? "we should try"...It's about time you jumped on board.

    Down the Rowdies, Up the Lions!

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    1. It's not Whitestar you give him too much credit.

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  14. Please post here if/when someone finds a link to the actual presentation/economic impact study. Would love to see the specifics.

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    1. Jim - Here is a link to the full video of the press conference, the presentation slides are shown on the right hand side and are the entire EIS as I received in hard copy.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WCoiAeqDMg&feature=youtu.be

      If you need any additional information feel free to email me.

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