On Tuesday, Orlando City Soccer Club issued a "call to action" for supporters and fans to reach out to their local politicians and let them know they want Major League Soccer (MLS) in Central Florida. The local initiative comes on the heels of a report Sunday that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs issued a "fast-track" notice for the project, encouraging her staff to review the funding proposal as quickly as possible.
The message sent from the club was simple, contact Orange County and City of Orlando officials with the following:
"I am in support of bringing MLS to Central Florida, which will bring tremendous economic impact, jobs, tourism and quality of life to the region. Please provide the funding necessary to make this happen for our community."
This marks the second time in just over two months that team officials have encouraged a phone and social media blitz of politicians to garner support for Orlando City's stadium project. The previous effort came in early May as the Florida State House considered a proposal that would have allowed Orlando City to use $1M per year for 30 years to help fund stadium construction. That effort fell short, never making it to the house floor, and the team has been revising their funding plan ever since. The club is now considering a $95M plan that would see an influx of funds from team owners while still receiving roughly $45M from tourism taxes and economic development funds.
Team President Phil Rawlins has spent the early part of this week meeting with Orange County representatives and business leaders from the Visit Orlando group who would benefit from the new stadium. The biggest catch in attracting Orange County to the project is showing a strong correlation between the stadium and increased hotel visitors even though the project is located downtown, away from the primary tourist district.
Orlando City has been careful not to go "over-the-top" asking fans to contact local officials to avoid creating a false sense of support that would likely be seen through. Instead the single message along with contact information has been picked up by supporter groups such as Iron Lion Firm, The Ruckus, Space Coast Alliance, and The 407 and pushed out to their members.
A source with the County has told us that email and phone call traffic have been usually high on the stadium subject since Monday. When asked to take up arms for their team, the Orlando City supporter groups do not appear to hold back. The same souce told us the approval process would likely stretch into July even with the "fast-track" moniker. However, the $25M in County funds represent the last piece of the puzzle before Orlando City's stadium plan will be fully funded and presented to MLS for expansion consideration.