Monday, October 1, 2012

The Sentinel & The Stadium

So our friends over at the Orlando Sentinel have decided to be fashionably late to the Orlando City Stadium dance, but as I told my 8th Grade Prom date Shannon Hess, "better late than never." 

Monday's edition of the paper had a front page article on the team's plans for a new soccer specific stadium in Orlando; many of you took to email immediately asking what I thought of the piece. 

Any time Orlando City (or soccer for that matter) can make it onto the front page of the Sentinel, it's a good thing regardless of content. It's amazing that in a one-professional sports-team town that the Lions get so little voluntary coverage from the Sentinel. It seems like only in cases where other "names-around-town" get involved in the discussion does the stadium issue and the team get more coverage. But I'm not going to hate on the Sentinel, there's plenty of room on the bandwagon.

Most of the people who wrote me said they felt the article was biased against the team or stadium proposal. While I don't think that was the Sentinel's intent, let's do a quick fact check of some of the items mentioned in the article.


Attendance: The Sentinel stated that, "the lions drew an average of 5,500 fans per regular season game last year." That would be false as Orlando City actually averaged just under 6,606 fans for all their home matches at the Citrus Bowl in the USLPRO 2012 season an increase of over 10% from the 2011 attendance numbers. Keep in mind that the 2011 numbers included the USLPRO final which drew 11,220 fans to the Citrus Bowl; as we know the Lions came-up short in their playoff push this season.

Philadelphia Trip: It is mentioned in the article that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs will travel with team officials next weekend to visit PPL Park in "Pennsylvania". That is indeed true, the group will be in Chester (just outside of Philadelphia) to take in the Union vs Revolution match on Saturday while touring the facility. What's not correct is the quote that PPL Park is, "the model the Lions want to reproduce in Orlando." While it's possible that certain design elements could be taken from PPL Park and applied to Orlando's stadium plans, BBVA Compass Park in Houston a better comparison to the team's plans based on information from our sources. PPL Park was built at a price of around $120M which is well above the $80-90M price tag we have heard mentioned from team officials in previous discussions. In addition none of the sites under consideration in Orlando have a similar waterfront/riverfront setting like PPL Park, an element which makes that stadium truly unique.

Public Funding: While the article doesn't come right out and say it, the tone suggests that the Sentinel is leading the reader to believe that the Lions stadium will be publicly funded. Mentions of the $1.1B Orlando Venues plan, the $187M Orange County needs for the convention center improvements, and the fact that the City of Orlando is running out of downtown tax revenue to spend; all lead you to believe the tax payer will be on the hook. From our discussions with the team and other sources the biggest investment from the City and/or County will likely be in free land for the stadium site. Some infrastructure costs would likely be split between the team and municipality, but estimates put the burden of the majority of costs on the team for the project. Minus the land costs and the project could come in at $65-$75M in construction costs, a number which seems fairly small compared to the overall $1.1B Orlando Venues plan. Just to put it in some perspective, Bright House Networks Stadium at UCF cost $55M in 2006 with the land already being owned by the school.

So while the Orlando Sentinel has finally joined the ranks of local media covering the Lions push towards a new MLS-ready stadium, their article is hardly encouraging and seems to lack the fact checking you would expect from the flagship newspaper of Central Florida. Regardless, the coverage is good for the team and good for the cause as public support will be vital to see this project through. The only way to connect to the non-soccer supporters is through mainstream media like the Sentinel, so ultimately we applaud this effort.

3 comments :

  1. Awesome. Glad to see the Sentinel already setting people up in opposition due to either (a) laziness or (b) anti-soccer slant.

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  2. James, I honestly think it is both. If it is not, as I like to refer to it, as "oval ball" or basketball, the Sentinel is not interested.

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  3. Sorry to poop on your parade, but Garber announced that the stadium in NY will be ready by 2016-2017.

    So are you saying OC will be before NY?

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