The Orlando Sentinel’s predictions turned out to be dead-on: The Orange County Commission voted 5-2 yesterday to approve a development package that includes a new Magic arena, renovated Citrus Bowl, and new performing arts center, with commissioners Fred Brummer and Tiffany Moore the only dissenters. Brummer’s proposal for a public vote on the project failed by the same margin.
The biggest piece of the $1.1 billion project is the Magic arena, which the city will build with $480 million, mostly in tax dollars, on city-owned land. The team is chipping in $50 million in cash, $12 million in lease payments, and $25 million to build five community gyms. All arena revenues will go either to the Magic or to the Predators arena football franchise.
Writes sports columnist Mike Bianchi in today’s Sentinel: “It would have been a serious breach of journalism ethics, but there was a little part of me that wanted to run up and high-five [Orlando mayor] Rich Crotty. Or put on one of those big foam fingers and start chanting, ‘Rich, Rich, he’s our man. He’s gonna pass this venue plan!'” Writing yesterday that a no vote would “turn Orlando into Birmingham” and that “this entire deal is the biggest no-lose proposition since NBA ref Tim Donaghy made his last bet,” though, that’s just sports journalism as usual.