Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rawlins presents to Orange County

Orlando City Soccer Club President Phil Rawlins made his pitch to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on why his club deserves $20M in tourism tax revenues to fund a new stadium.

To say the team was well represented would be a bit of an understatement as not only were the council chambers standing room only but an entire overflow room was full drawing a shocked look from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. 

In front of a backdrop of purple kits and shirts, the club's colors, Rawlins launched into a passionate 30 minute appeal not just for stadium funding, but for professional soccer for the entire state of Florida.

Since Major League Soccer (MLS) contracted it's Miami and Tampa franchises in 2001, Florida and the rest of the southeast has been without a representative at the sports highest level in America. While the league has matured and grown to now include 20 teams, the nation's fourth largest state is still without a club. Orlando City isn't just carrying the flag for the thousands of club supporters in Central Florida, they are trying to remedy a situation for the entire state that has existed for the last 12 years.

For those who follow the blog, nothing new was presented by Rawlins regarding the stadium plan with one noticeable exception. He stated that the club is prepared to pay in excess of a $70M expansion fee to the league in addition to the $30M they are already providing towards the proposed city-owned stadium. While it had been rumored for a while that the fee had jumped from $40M to $70M, this was the first time County Commissioners were hearing this news in a public forum. 

Rawlins painted a picture of Central Florida becoming a soccer destination not just for families visiting from the midwest and northeast but also from South America and Europe. Why shouldn't the most visited city in the world also be represented in the most watched sport in the world? To that effect Rawlins mentioned the ability to drive additional Brazilians and other tourists to Orlando, a move that could generate significant "heads in beds"; the unofficial benchmark used to help compare Tourism Development Tax (TDT) funded projects. 

While Orlando City had done their homework, it seemed clear that several of the county commissioners were still trying to understand the nuances of the stadium proposal. Why couldn't the stadium be located in the tourist district near the theme parks? Why can't you just play in the 70,000 seat Florida Citrus Bowl? There were as many questions as answers, but after all that is the purpose of a workshop, to educate the council and the public.

To summarize today's presentation, one only has to look at a soccer match for inspiration. There are two halves to any match, after the Tuesday meeting the club and BCC went into halftime tied at 0-0. The second half will take place on Friday in the same council chambers as the Tourism Development Council (TDC) will gather for Orlando City to make their pitch. In all likelihood this funding match-up will go to penalty kicks as early as August 20th, that is the next BCC meeting where a formal approval vote could be taken. Seven public servants will stand on the goal line, Orlando City will stand on the spot, the question is will enough votes go through to the goal. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer Club

3 comments :

  1. It was good to see so many questions being asked. Hopefully the team will have the opportunity to meet with each commissioner to answer them. When questions start with "I read on the internet that...", you know you've got some explaining to do. I like how Phil pointed out that Sporting Park (KC) cost $200...all publicly funding...when one commissioner mentioned San Jose building theirs for $60 million. As Phil said, every stadium financing plan is different. I'm confident this will go through, eventually. There'd be a huge uproar if this got passed with no resistance.

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    1. Agreed. I recall literally doing a "facepalm" when they said the line about "I read it on the Internet", heh.

      The funding for San Jose's stadium is a different beast entirely, something the commissioner neglected to research(or mention)further during the inquiry.

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  2. If Orange County is unwilling to contribute, what's Plan B? Or C?
    Interesting item last night on WESH2, Pat Clarke mentioned something about Garber coming to the rescue. Any comments?

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