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.