Wannabe Orlando MLS club to ask for $75 million in stadium costs, because Florida is close to Europe

When last we heard from the minor-league Orlando City Soccer Club about its plans for a new stadium so it can apply to move up to MLS, the price tag was $90 to 95 million, and team president Phil Rawlins said, “I think it’s too early to say exactly where those funds would come from.” Four months later, the projected cost is $105 million and the source of the funds would be mostly from Florida taxpayers:

There’s been no agreement on a financing plan between [Orlando Mayor Buddy] Dyer’s administration and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ administration. But here is what’s being discussed:

•$30 million from the team.

•$30 million in state sales taxes.

•$25 million in hotel taxes from the county.

•$20 million from the city, mostly in land costs.

“This is moving far quicker than I ever anticipated,” Dyer said. “There is a lot going on right now, and there are a lot of moving pieces.”

That’s from a report in the Orlando Sentinel that is mostly focused on the slightly surreal notion that the news that Brazilian-born, Barcelona-living language-school chain owner Flávio Augusto da Silva is buying the team is a reason for the public to cough up money for a soccer-only stadium. To which da Silva added his own unique logic:

“Orlando is a very special city, because it is very close to the South American market and close to the European market, two regions that really love soccer,” Augusto da Silva said. “We were researching a franchise in another place, but we believe Orlando is a really good city to invest.”

Other cities that are even closer to Europe and South America combined: Port-au-Prince, Monrovia, and Halifax. Maybe they’ve all already maxed out their hotel taxes.

8 comments on “Wannabe Orlando MLS club to ask for $75 million in stadium costs, because Florida is close to Europe

  1. You’ve never been to Halifax (Andrew), have you? The place is crawling with European tourists (easier to get to from Europe than nearly any US city thanks to extortionate airline logic)–well at least in the summer.

  2. As a native, Orlando is crawling with tourists from both Europe and South America. Brazilians have their own areas on I-Drive.

    The cost difference probably comes from the move from IDrive to Orlando proper.

    That being said, how many tourists from those areas will come watch what is mostly minor league soccer to them? None.

  3. They already play at the Citrus Bowl. If it wasn’t for two big bowl games (and some high school football games) it could be torn down and rebuilt. From what I’m hearing it’s not worth renovating.

    That being said, no more than 20,000 seats are needed. And that’s being generous.

  4. Orlando city has been in the USL PL (below the NASL, even) for just two seasons. In that time, they have drawn an avg of 5300 and 6600 fans to their reg season games (in the citrus bowl, cap 70k or thereabouts).

    Their playoff gates have averaged 8-9k over the two years, though there are not that many playoff games, of course.

    Even if the city was willing to renovate the citrus bowl (unlikely for a team drawing under 10k fans for 15-20 games a year…. or less in total attendance than the two bowl games they host), it would be a bad idea.

    Most of OSC’s competitors in USL PL play to crowds smaller than they do, and have stadia that seat 5-7k (with a couple of exceptions).

    Classic ham and eggs. The team “needs” a 10,000 seater max. But it would really like someone to build them an MLS calibre stadium, so that a team with a couple of years or decent support can get a leg up on the 20th MLS slot. I can’t say it won’t work, as dumber things have happened. But it seems unlikely, since MLS has already effectively told everyone that it is ‘saving’ it’s 20th franchise for NY (who seem relatively uninterested, it must be said).

    OSC might want to look at avg MLS ticket prices before trying to make that jump as well. Their current fan base may not be willing to pay 3x what they do now to see Columbus and Chivas USA come to town…

  5. This investor probably saw the stars, the city’s population, and the fact that Orlando is a magnet for tourists, and probably figured this would be a perfect location for an MLS franchise.

    Reality suggests that:

    1. Orlando City has only been in existence for two years and has not had a “rough patch” on the pitch
    2. Every pro sports team in Orlando not named the Magic have either folded or relocated due to poor support
    3. You’re far more likely to spot Man Utd/Chelsea/Real/Barca shirts in Orlando than an Orlando City shirt
    4. There are other entertainment options to choose from than in most other cities our size (there’s apparently a pretty big theme park in town…)

    It’s worth noting the city of Orlando is still on the hook for the new, spanking $480 million arena that is already starting to see its main tenants struggling to sell tickets.

  6. Soooooooooooooooooooooooo……………………………………………(the following is a comment form a longtime Orlando City fan and current (and future) season ticket holder; attempts have been made to eliminate bias, but you know how that goes.)

    Lots of crow to be eaten by everyone. Orlando City did NOT in fact become the 20th MLS franchise. They are the 21st. They also sold out the entire goddamn Citrus Bowl (over 62,000 people) for their inaugural MLS home opener. Not too shabby. They have also been drawing crowds of over 30,000 (and up to 40,0000) for all but one of their home games (a friendly against a semi-decent Brazilian club.)

    It appears that some of the people who commented on this article woefully misunderstood what the hell was going on at the time. Orlando City wasn’t looking for a stadium in which to play their USL games. They wanted to build a stadium for when (not if) they joined MLS. It was actually a pretty major (and somewhat unfair) requirement imposed by the league.

    And while I agree that publicly funded stadiums are a bit silly, Orlando City stood apart from most other sports franchises by ponying up $30 million of Flavio’s cash right off the bat. That earned them respect from me. They were also (relatively) modest in the total cost of their stadium, as most other stadiums usually cost a hell of a lot more than $105 million.

    As it now turns out, they are apparently just going to say “fuck it” and build the whole damn thing out of pocket. Orlando City has always been a very special club as anyone who’s been a supporter for longer than three months can tell you. Something about the way they did things always stood out to me. I think the fact that the club’s founder Phil Rawlins is a fan of the sport first and a businessman second has something to do with it. I for one am glad they decided to fund this thing themselves. It’s just another example of why Orlando City > other sports franchises* and one more reason why I love this club.

    *A club from LA planning to enter MLS in 2018(?) has proposed building a $250 million stadium entirely out of pocket.

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