Orlando officials determined Citrus Bowl refit for MLS would be too pricey, but didn’t write it down

Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, one of two members of that body to vote against last fall’s approval of $20 million in county money toward a new stadium for Orlando City S.C., has charged MLS with hoodwinking local officials into believing that a soccer-only stadium was the only way to get a team:

Edwards said he’s learning other cities are getting many options for new or rebuilt stadiums to attract soccer teams.

Edwards said that he’s never seen a study to prove a newly overhauled Citrus Bowl could not handle pro soccer.

“I think we were misled by Major League Soccer,” Edwards said. “I think, [from] the body language I’m getting from other commissioners, I think they were told the same thing.”

The prompt for Edwards’ statements is, no doubt, the fact that Atlanta and New York are now both getting new MLS teams that will play in facilities built for other sports. This has to create some buyers’ remorse for Orlando officials, though in this case, Edwards seems to have been pre-remorsed.

Edwards yesterday also demanded that local officials provide proof that redoing the Citrus Bowl for soccer would have been a more expensive option than building anew. The answer: We know it’s true, but we didn’t write it down:

“There isn’t any documentation,” said Heather Fagan, deputy chief of staff at Orlando City Hall. “Having said that, it was more than just ‘chatting over coffee.’

“We asked our architects working on the Citrus Bowl project to evaluate incorporating MLS-requirements into the Citrus Bowl reconstruction. The architects came back and informed us it would be more cost-prohibitive then building a new stadium.”

And from County Mayor Teresa Jacobs:

Jacobs said she relied on county staff to analyze other MLS venues to determine if a Citrus Bowl retrofit could accommodate a pro soccer team, and they deemed it too costly. That appraisal, Jacobs said, “made walking around sense,” though she now would prefer if the Citrus Bowl retrofit estimates were documented.

So let me get this straight: You sent your staff to calculate how much it would cost to refit the Citrus Bowl for soccer, and they just said “a lot” and you left it at that? I know what I want my next job to be: Florida government economist. I bet I wouldn’t even have to crack open my copy of Excel.


11 comments on “Orlando officials determined Citrus Bowl refit for MLS would be too pricey, but didn’t write it down

  1. LOL. The best time for the county commissioners to do their due diligence on these projects would have been BEFORE they cast their votes, not months after the construction process has already commenced on one of them.

    This is the type of “leadership” we get from people who run Orlando and Orange County. I, for one, can’t wait to leave this place behind.

  2. Fact is Orlando would not get an expansion team if it had to play in a college football stadium. However NYC and Atlanta are big TV markets, that every league needs for ratings.

  3. I believe the main reason MLS is working towards Soccer-specific designed stadiums as a prerequisite for expansion teams is not to have a whole lot of empty seats shown as is the case for those with NFL in mind. That or collusion with stadium design firms.

  4. Eh, building soccer stadiums hasn’t prevented a number of teams from playing in front of empty seats every other week (Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Red Bulls, Toronto, off the top of my head).

    I think I’d have more respect for Don Garber if he just admitted that there are different rules to MLS entry for different markets.

  5. The really great thing about the “SSS” rule is that it is so malleable.

    For instance, it is absolutely vital that ‘all’ (nudge nudge, wink wink) prospective new teams have them. But, there is nothing stopping all those SSS facilities from hosting college or high school football games… as they do in LA, Houston and many other markets.

    Jacobs may be right about the cost to refit the citrus bowl (how wide a playing surface can be incorporated? I don’t actually know, but judging by the bowl games I’ve watched played there, getting even a 75yd wide surface in would be difficult), but it is refreshing to hear that she believes that refitting it would be “more” cost prohibitive than building an MLS stadium… and by extension that, apparently, she believes building an MLS stadium is cost prohibitive as well.

  6. Edwards is so upset about 20mil, where was he on the 150 mil in upgrades for an empty football stadium or the billion plus in free money for the Magic.

  7. John Bladen on May 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm said:
    “”I don’t actually know, but judging by the bowl games I’ve watched played there, getting even a 75yd wide surface in would be difficult)””

    Excuse me, but the soccer World Cup was played in Orlando, at the Citrus Bowl, in USA 94! The field dimensions at the Citrus Bowl, therefore, are not a problem. How these MLS types could be thinking of anything else but the Citrus Bowl, shows how corrupt MLS is, from the top all the way down.

  8. Steven: So just to get this record, subsidies for non-soccer stadiums are bad, but handouts for soccer-specific stadiums are perfectly fine and dandy?

    You can’t have it both ways.

  9. Steven: So just to get this on record, subsidies for non-soccer stadiums are unjustifiable, but handouts for soccer-specific stadiums are perfectly fine and dandy?

    You can’t have it both ways.

  10. Thanks Tim.

    Wasn’t the stadium renovated/modified after the ’94 WC? If so, did that affect the width (particularly in the ‘corners’… maybe it’s just my memory, but I seem to recall significant changes to the endzone/corner seating configuration happened sometime in the 90s).

  11. Yo John,

    Then they can “reconfigure” it back, if in fact it was “reconfigured” in the first place.

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