Friday, May 3, 2013

Orlando City Stadium Bill Falls Short

The first significant setback of Orlando City Soccer Club's bid to bring Major League Soccer to Florida was felt Friday when the House of Representatives failed to hear a bill providing funding towards the team's stadium project.

Over the last week, legislation that would allow Orlando City and other sports franchises to tap into roughly $13M in state funding annually was moved around Tallahassee like a soccer ball.

On Monday, Senate Bill 306 (SB-306), which contained the funding mechanism, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 35-4 and was moved onto the House for review and approval. 

After sitting in limbo for several days a move was made that transferred the stadium funding from SB-306 to Senate Bill 1828 (SB-1828) and was approved again by the Senate 37-2 and sent to the House.

However, with still no movement on SB-1828 late on Friday the Senate went back and amended House Bill 7127 (HB-7127) to include the stadium funding and approved that at 3:35pm Friday by a 40-0 vote.

A tense few hours of waiting ensued for Orlando City supporters as they held their breath hoping the bill would be processed and moved onto the House for presentation. At 4:41pm the bill status was changed to reflect that it was ready to be received by the House.

At 6:10pm the House returned from recess and heard several bills that had been approved by the Senate ranging from health care to education. Hope of HB-7127 being heard went right up until the last minute of the session, but ultimately Speaker William Weatherford decided not to hear the bill during this session.

Ultimately the flaw of the bill was not the Orlando City portion, but the funding request from the Miami Dolphins to support their renovations to Sun Life Stadium. Miami-Dade County was to hold a sales tax referendum vote in two weeks that would allow for the state funds to be directed towards the Dolphins stadium. With South Florida still feeling the impacts of several publicly funded stadium projects over the last decade the bill never made it to the House floor for a vote.

What happens to Orlando City's timeline for stadium plans and possible MLS expansion is now a bit unclear. Team President Phil Rawlins stated that he was "bitterly disappointed with the politics he witnessed in Tallahassee" but encouraged supporters to carry on with the push towards MLS.

3 comments :

  1. Disappointing. Great job on the updates today.

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  2. I'm sure the team is bitterly disappointed but I have a hard time believing this will derail anything. Not to spend someone else's money but $1m a year towards a $110m stadium shouldn't be a dealbreaker. Might be a good test towards future battles. I think the Orlando City could do better with future bills that might be defined with a specific goal (stadium upkeep/technology improvements/tourism packages) as opposed to a state bill generically covering lots of teams. I think Orlando City are far too smart to let this slip too long-personally, I don't think the House President liked the pressure the supporters put on him.

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  3. $1m a year is one third of the cost of the stadium. Those are significant dollars that will be difficult to find elsewhere. Our state has a screwed up government. Basically, the Speaker of the House is allowed to derail a bill all by himself.

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