Owners of Portuguese minor-league team propose $400m soccer stadium. In Tampa. Really.

Did I miss a memo where suddenly owning a U.S. soccer franchise is a license to print money? MLS talking about building a $300 million stadium in New York City is one thing; but now we have England’s VisionPro Sports Institute Holdings proposing to build a $400 million, 29,000-seat stadium in Tampa by 2016. With a retractable roof, presumably so this doesn’t happen in Florida. For a team, Tampa Bay F.C., that doesn’t exist yet, and which would start off in the third-tier United Soccer League (where the top attendance is about 6,000 fans per game). And which would compete with the established Tampa Bay Rowdies, one level higher, who average about 3,000 fans per game.

This is clearly pretty crazy stuff, but VSI insists that it’s serious, and presumably has its sights set on getting an MLS expansion team once the league hands another round of those out. (Though then they’d presumably be on the hook for an expansion fee of around $100 million as well.) VSI recently started a team in Rio Maior, Portugal, where it plays in an existing 8,000-seat stadium, but this … this is another level entirely.

VSI hasn’t set yet where it wants to build its stadium, so naturally, the Tampa Tribune expends lots of column inches wondering about where the site would be. Over at Shadow of the Stadium, meanwhile, Noah Pransky wonders about what should be a more pressing issue, which can best be summed up as “$400 MILLION?!?!?!?!?”

As for building the stadium without public funds, you can probably forget it.  If a privately-funded Rays stadium in the middle of the region doesn’t make sense to developers, you can bet a soccer stadium near the Brandon area will make even less.

VSI has a stadium website set up, but there’s zero information there about financing (and not much more about the stadium itself. VSI has announced an “unveiling” for December 11; hopefully somebody will be there to answer questions, and somebody from the Tampa Bay media will be there to ask some good ones. (I’m looking at you, Pransky.)


6 comments on “Owners of Portuguese minor-league team propose $400m soccer stadium. In Tampa. Really.

  1. You need to realize that VSI already owns an entire organization in Tampa right now. VSI Tampa Flames is nearly-fully affiliated with USL, having teams in the W-League (women’s), PDL (development league), and the Super Y-League 20 (youth development). Only USL-PRO (men’s 3rd division) is absent, but will apparently start play in 2013. All teams currently play at the JC Handly Sports Complex in Brandon, which is basically a soccer academy. And, honestly, that’s how VSI has treated things (as an academy) since they joined USL a few years ago.

    I say all this because my impression on a USL-PRO team (and the subsequent stadium news) is that VSI is looking to build a proper European-style soccer complex to rival the likes of USSF’s Bradenton Academy. From a purely soccer perspective, this is fantastic. That being said, $400M is outrageous, and, like your article says, would require public funds. It wouldn’t be unlike any other stadium deal in this country, but I can’t for the life of me see how a foreign entity would be successful in procuring that much public money. I say they’re shooting high in hopes of getting more than they otherwise would. Once the legislation is rammed through (if it happens), I think a number like $100-150M would be more accurate.

  2. The idea of aiming for MLS isn’t a bad one. It’s worked for several D2/3 teams previously. The issue is they’re over reaching for an area that only modestly supported their last MLS team and only continues to modestly support their current D2 team. Entering D3 with plans for a stadium larger and more expensive than any SSS currently in MLS seems asinine.

  3. Wow, this has to be the dumbest stadium proposal I’ve read about in a long time. The New York Cosmos will be reformed before this joke goes through.

  4. I thought El Paso tearing down city hall for a minor league team was pretty dumb. In Florida this might actually happen, just ask Miami tax payers. I bet this gets built next to the new d-ray stadium.

  5. I understand how VSI has a presence in Tampa already that should given them an idea of how the market is, but I still find this a foolish venture. First of all, they simply will not be able to recieve any taxpayer dollars if Tampa still thinks they’ll eventually get the Rays. Any stadium money that might be acrued will just be reserved for that theoretical Rays ball park, and that will definitely take precedence over any soccer stadium. Second, I doubt MLS is as interested in Tampa as they are in Orlando with Orlando City SC. While Tampa is getting a reputation as a poor sports market, or at least a saturated sports market, Orlando, despite being smaller, may be seen as a more untapped recourse.Orlando City SC is very successful on the field and the Mayor is attempting to make an SSS for the team in a better location than where they currently are playing (The dumpy Citrus Bowl). Additionally, Orlando is also in the process of building a light-rail system to improve mass transit, and its obvious that Tampa has the deck stacked against it for this MLS pipe dream.

  6. you guys are forgetting a pretty big detail. Exchange rate. With massive load s of money in the UK, that 400m really only 250m gbp. Not saying thats a small amount, but you take into account their money off shores, plus the amount they probably generate from their youth clubs, (which I hear is VERY VERY big and profitable), I don’t think they would need as much public funding as you think. The counties don’t have enough money to float a project like this, but i’m sure would love the idea of being able to add a small amount to get a project running that would definitely earn them long term revenue in tourism, taxes, etc.