Orlando getting MLS team, half the bill for stadium

As expected, the Orange County Commission voted 5-2 in favor of spending tourist tax money on a new MLS soccer stadium yesterday, with former project foe Pete Clarke casting the deciding vote. Clarke didn’t get the promise he was seeking that the Orlando City Soccer Club would share profits with the county in exchange for $20 million in subsidies, but instead settled for the team kicking in $200,000 a year for 15 years to the county parks budget, though even that reportedly hasn’t been finalized.

With the city of Orlando having already approved the plan, this pretty much cements it in stone: The Orlando City Lions will likely become MLS’s 21st team either in 2015 or 2016, under league commissioner Don Garber’s “let a thousand soccer teams bloom” program. The new $94 million stadium — to be built near the Magic‘s Amway Center in the mostly poor, mostly African-American downtown neighborhood of Parramore — would be paid for roughly half by the team and half by the public: OCSC has committed to $30 million up front plus rent payments to cover $10 million in bonds, Orange County and the city of Orlando have each approved $20 million in tax money, and the other $14 million will apparently be paid off by everyone throwing their money on the table and leaving before the waiter has a chance to add up the bill.

The benefits of the stadium will be anything but halfsies, though: The team will get all revenues from soccer games (which will be the main use of the place, since it’s a soccer stadium), plus half of advertising board fees for non-soccer events; the county, despite owning the building, will be left with whatever it can get from renting the place out for concerts and the like. It all makes you wish that somebody had suggested a larger cut of the proceeds for the public in exchange for kicking in half the funding … oh, right.


6 comments on “Orlando getting MLS team, half the bill for stadium

  1. I wish I could be excited about Orlando getting an MLS franchise. Like, I almost felt an inkling of a slight tinge of happiness when I heard about this yesterday… but I just haven’t gotten into OCSC at all, and that was before they started calling for a handout for their new ground.

    This is what gets me the most about this stadium deal… the team can easily match the expansion fee (which has been quoted at $70m, iirc), but they don’t have enough money to fund the stadium which would ostensibly be their domain? I know OCSC isn’t the first team in North American sports to do this, and certainly won’t be the last if MLS keeps expanding, but that bit just doesn’t add up to me. What’s it in for the city really, aside from the odd non-soccer event? (Which, btw, good luck trying to sell outdoor shows in the summer, when the humidity becomes unbearable and the skies fall down virtually every day.)

    The sentiment among their fans, who obviously backed the project unanimously, is that they think the TDT ought to be reformed so it can provide additional funds to our raggedy infrastructure, crumbling education system, and bare-bones police/fire units. They don’t realize that every handout like this (and the other downtown venues, mind) takes us further and further away from those reformes actually becoming a possibility. So long as there are stadiums and arenas to be built, the laws don’t need any changing, I suppose.

    But hey, there’s a silver lining to everything. At least Christian Bruey isn’t #Sad anymore.

  2. Kei, I figured you were a fan of OCSC. Is that not right? Because if an actual fan isn’t excited about the jump from USL-Pro to MLS, that doesn’t seem to bode well. Granted you might be the exception in that you actually participate in discussions about the use of public money for stadia, but historically there is a solid basis for doubting the commitment of Florida sports fans (save for college football).

    My guess is the ‘Southern Strategy” of Garber is to now add Miami and Atlanta—not much of a guess as these names have been in the wind—so that there are regional rivals to help spark interest, but having Miami and Tampa teams before didn’t really work at creating enough of a rivalry to prevent them from being contracted. MLS has changed a lot since then but the demographics of Florida probably haven’t.

  3. I don’t really give a toss about OCSC, which is why I find it difficult to muster up any enthusiasm about them joining the “big boys.” Their fans are absolutely through the roof though, judging by their reactions.

  4. PS Michael: I see a lot of bringing up the demographics of Florida as a reason why the MLS *might* work in Florida. As someone who’s lived here for a while, I have my doubts as to whether that will actually be the case.

    There’s a huge Hispanic population in this state, especially in Miami and Orlando. The thing is, the vast majority of them are (or at least consider themselves) Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans — all of whom traditionally prefer baseball to soccer, or any other sport. To be sure, there’s a sizable number of South and Central Americans in Florida too, but you can’t make the assumption that they’ll be any more predisposed to watching the MLS either.*

    * actually, you can apply that same logic to everyone who calls Florida home, too…

  5. Kei, The deal with the stadium is that it will be part of a sports corridor. This is part of the city’s plan to revitalize the Parramore area. Business serving Amway crowds will now have additional crowds in summer. In addition, MLS has promised an All Star game and five international games in the next five years which will likely be at the Citrus Bowl. It’s a reasonable plan but one wonders if indeed a refurbished Citrus Bowl made more soccer specific and giving OCSC a large share of the concession profits would not have been the more responsible deal.

  6. There are only 17 home games in an MLS season, though, so that’s still a lot of empty summer dates. The city and county might have done better to buy $40 million worth of Groupons for Parramore businesses.

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