Friday, August 9, 2013

Orlando City Stadium Recap

After Tuesday's presentation to the Board of Commissioners for Orange County and the news last night of a possible deal for the stadium, Orlando City Soccer Club President Phil Rawlins was back in the council chambers to give another presentation on the team's plans. The Friday event focused on the Tourism Development Council (TDC), a quasi-governmental group that offers recommendations to Orange County on the use of tourism development tax (TDT) funds for various projects. 

Much like Tuesday, dozens of Orlando City supporters decked out in purple made for standing room only conditions in the main chambers and an overflow room, again showing strength in numbers to the TDC members. Following presentations from other venues looking for additional TDT funds for development, Rawlins took to the floor in what, in my opinion, was his strongest presentation of the stadium plan to date.

He began with painting a picture for the board members on how the most popular sport in the world would be woven into the very hearts of sports fans across Central Florida. In all seriousness, the almost 8,000 average attendance for home matches show that this isn't a circus coming to town, the show is already here.

If you missed the presentation feel free to read back through our twitter feed here where we used the hashtag #TDCmeeting to keep our followers up-to-date. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Based on discussions between the club and MLS officials, the stadium funding represents the final hurdle before earning an expansion franchise. An expansion fee has been negotiated ($70M), the other funding has been secured, but the club expects an announcement of expansion before the end of 2013.
  • While comparing the "attendance bump" from USL-to-MLS moves, Rawlins intentionally left Seattle out of the averages so not to skew the numbers; not something he had to do but it shows they want the numbers to be as real as possible. With the bump, Orlando City can expect their 8,000 average attendance now to move to in excess of 18,000 based on Portland, Vancouver and Montreal's recent moves.
  • Rawlins came right out and stated that MLS would be adding 4 more teams by 2020, which we all knew, but he went on to say that only 2 of those clubs would be in the Southeast. When asked who he thought the clubs would be awarded to he stated Orlando first then either Miami or Atlanta. Ultimately he stated Miami is the likely second southeast club but that Beckham and his team are still well behind Orlando's organizational effort and wouldn't expect something from them for a little while still.
  • The stadium location we reported on a while ago, but Rawlins pointed out the site will be within a half mile of our 16,000 parking spaces and 2 different commuter rail stations along with Orlando's main commuter bus terminal.
  • Orlando City is already in negotiations with MLS to host the All-Star Game sometime during the first 5 seasons in their new stadium. They would expect that event to have roughly the same economic impact as an international friendly at the facility, roughly $5M for the immediate area. 
  • The club has been working with Florida Citrus Sports, who manage the Citrus Bowl, to ensure the facility could be used for regular season MLS matches where attendance was projected to be well over the 18,000 capacity as well as for friendlies. Keep in mind the Citrus Bowl has FieldTurf which would require temporary sod to be laid to meet FIFA standards, but growing grass in Florida is not really an issue.
  • Orlando City continues to have regular discussions with the "Brazilian Beckham" (i.e. Kaka) on joining the club in its first MLS season as a designated player to help attract Brazilian tourists who already represent the largest international tourist group to the area.
  • Phase 1 of the stadium would cost $85M; $30M from the club, $25M from the City (including land), $20M from the county, and $10M in business incentives and naming rights. The first phase would be nearly 18,000 seats, covered sideline seating, open end-zone, grass pitch, and large video board above the supporters section.
  • Phase 2 of the stadium would cost $30M entirely in the form of sales tax rebates from the state, something that all other major sports franchises in Florida already enjoy. Rawlins said he thinks that deal or something comparable could be in place as soon as next spring meaning Phase 2 could be done in time for opening day.
  • Orlando City will be covering any cost overruns associated with the stadium, the club will not be coming back to the City or County for additional funds.
  • Stadium construction would start in early 2014 with completion in June/July 2015. The club would start the 2015 season playing home matches at the renovated Citrus Bowl.
  • A fact that took most of the audience by surprise, the average ticket price "bump" for clubs moving from USL-to-MLS is only $2 per game. 
To summarize the feeling in the room following the presentation, it was very positive and encouraging. The TDC members recommended supporting the stadium and the rest of the venues, something that I even doubted after Tuesday, but Orlando City is well on their way towards clearing the final hurdle. 

The club still will need a positive vote from the Orange County BCC in late August or early September followed by a vote by the City Council of Orlando; both are expected to passed based on the latest feedback from both governments.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer Club


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