State funding efforts towards Orlando City's downtown stadium moved forward on Monday evening as the Florida Senate approved SB-306 by a vote of 35-4. The bill moves onto the House of Representatives for a vote on either Tuesday or Wednesday, with approval meaning the bill would become law later this year. The team has put out a "call for action" on social media over the last week asking supporters to contact their representatives and the effort seems to be having a major impact in Tallahassee.
Orlando City has been working with Central Florida politicians over the last several months to have Major League Soccer included in the list of professional sports franchises eligible for sales tax rebates through the state. The current law only covers teams competing in MLB, NFL, NHL, and the NBA; the new bill would include MLS and NASCAR facilities.
Just last week, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer revealed the location of the stadium site to be roughly 3 blocks west of downtown's center. The stadium design will integrate into the urban area with one of the tightest field dimensions (behind only Portland) and a "team tower" at the open end of the stadium for supporters and team offices.
The team is looking for $1M per year in sales tax rebates over the next 30 years or a total of $30M to be used towards the construction of their proposed stadium. Costs associated with the land and construction of the stadium have been reported to be around $105M with a combination of the team, City, County, and State all providing of the funds.
SB-306 is a hybrid of several sports facility bills considered during the 2013 house session. While other bills specifically offered the funds requested by Orlando City, the bill that is likely to pass this week is a bit different. Florida has roughly $13M available per year for sales tax rebates for eligible sports franchises. In the past these rebates were handed out on a case by case basis, usually with the bigger projects getting the bulk of the money. The new bill would require teams to compete for the funds offering up their best proposals for evaluation by the Economic Development Committee. In the case of Orlando City the $1M per year request is considered to be favored by many on the Committee for its small price tag and big impact of bringing MLS back to the Sunshine State. The Miami Dolphins have asked for $3M per year over 30 years to help fund renovations to SunLife Stadium and Daytona International Speedway has also requested funding for improvements.
The current house session is set to end on Thursday May 3rd so a vote on SB-306 is likely to occur in the next two days barring any last minute changes. Reports out of the State House show strong support for the bill and expectations are that it should pass before the end of the day Wednesday.