Orlando City SC stadium funding approved by Orange County board

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By MIKE GRAMAJO

ORLANDO, Fla. — For the first time in 12 years, Major League Soccer looks to be on its way back to Florida.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday evening, 5-2, to grant the Orlando City Soccer Club $20 million of the remaining Tourism Development Tax (TDT), which will bring a downtown soccer stadium with a purpose of luring an MLS expansion team.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Major League Soccer to be in the Southeast and in Florida,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins told SBI. “We will make MLS a big success in Florida, I’m very sure of that.

“If you look at the public support, we had very little skepticism. We had well over 100 people lined up to speak to show support. We have the support of the tourist community, the support of the city, and now the county.”

With Orlando City receiving a total of $35 million in TDT ($15 million which has been given from City of Orlando leaders), Rawlins did mention that the team will go into final negotiations with Major League Soccer when he meets with league commissioner Don Garber and league president Mark Abbott later this week.

The Tourism Development Tax, which is also known as the TDT, can only be used for venues and comes from hotel and tourist tax.

“I expect we get an expansion announcement by the end of this year, sooner if possible if not before Thanksgiving” added Rawlins.

Despite setbacks earlier this year, the Lions along with help from City and County leaders will pay a total of $150 million, which includes the $70 million expansion fee that will come directly from the club. Among that, $80 million will be used to fund the downtown soccer stadium, located in the Parramore neighborhood in Downtown Orlando.

“The time for soccer has come to America. The time has come to make history,” said Rawlins during his address to Orange County leaders. “This is the fulfillment of a dream, this is a city where dreams come true.”

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What do you think of this news? Did you expect the vote to pass? Looking forward to MLS’ return to Florida?

Share your thoughts below.

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76 Responses to Orlando City SC stadium funding approved by Orange County board

  1. WiscFan says:

    Great News! But hopefully they join in 2016, not 2015.

    • Clyde Frog says:

      Why?

      • WiscFan says:

        I just prefer to keep the league at an even number. 20 in 2015. 22 in 2016. Hopefully another team will come in with OCSC in 2016 (ATL, MIA, etc.). Plus I don’t think MLS will want any market to share the spotlight in 2015 with their NYCFC.

        • Clyde Frog says:

          Really? I can’t think of a less important consideration in the league’s future development than having an even number of teams. I mean, I guess the schedule makers’ job is a bit easier with an even number of teams, but should something so trivial really factor at all into the league’s business decisions?

    • Adam says:

      The team has been saying 2015 and MLS has said nothing to refute that

      • Abumax says:

        Of course not. If OCSC is ready, why would MLS delay collecting its expansion fee by a year? It’s in neither party’s interest to start in 2016. It will be 2015.

  2. Jeff carter says:

    Will the stadium have a roof?

  3. HeHan says:

    Congrats Orlando fans, you guys deserve it!

  4. Cabrito says:

    Well, this almost seals it for a team in Atlanta or Miami. Orlando and MLS will need a geographical rival nearby.

    • Roman Lewandowski says:

      Hopefully not Miami. Does anyone besides Beckham want that?

      • Noah says:

        Beckham has several really rich investors competing to team up with him for a team.

        I agree that I don’t think Miami will be much of an attendance draw. But there are more positives than just attendance.

        1. Miami is an attractive city to live in. It will draw DPs to play there
        2. Miami could be a TV ratings draw (especially if it signs high profile DPs
        3. Miami, as a warm weather city, will make MLS scheduling easier, especially given the increasing season length from March 1st into December.

        • Elijah says:

          It will also draw basically no fans on a consistent basis. Miami doesn’t even draw all that well for the Heat a lot of nights!

          Worst sports city in a America.

          • Dan says:

            The Heat have sold out every game since the Big 3 arrived and were 8th in the league in attendance the year they went 15-67 before that. The problem isn’t that people don’t buy tickets it’s that they don’t show up until the second quarter. Doesn’t make any difference to the bottom line.

  5. Lorenzo says:

    Seems like a good location to have an MLS academy. Who did we get from Florida? Altidore and Johnson?

    • phillypride says:

      Altidore grew up in Jersey, right?

    • 407 says:

      The club already have a very large academy at their training ground up in the north end of town. It’s not an IMG-like academy, like a boarding school, per se. Or not yet, at least.

      Also, MLS/USMNT from Orlando:
      - Graham Zusi
      - Sean Johnson (you meant Eddie, right?)
      - Deshorn Brown
      - Dax McCarty

      • 407 says:

        (Not necessarily born here, but had some relevant time here: Johnson and Brown both played at UCF, while Zusi and McCarthy both grew up here for most of their childhood(s).)

  6. nickp91 says:

    Orlando put itself on a path to become the next Seattle

    • Jee says:

      More like Portland.

    • RB says:

      Well there are certainly multiple ways to interpret that comment, aren’t there?

      • AristotleTimVickery says:

        if you mean cheap owners relative to profits, i dont really see that. OC knows they have to work to bring the crowds with a high quality product. As for Duece, he or another high priced american national team member such as Bradley shouldve been brought over a long time ago by Sea.

  7. Mike R says:

    It will be great…the whole four years it lasts before
    It folds like every other FLA team

    • AristotleTimVickery says:

      a couple of years ago I wouldve agreed with you. However, MLS is totally different then it was 2 or 3 years ago. It was small potatoes with small thinking. It no longer is that. I bet that Orlando city will, surprisingly, be based on the sort of urban mixed crowd that you see in Portland. In other words, Orlando city will very much try to develop its ties with English soccer more so than suburban youth soccer or even the hispanic market.

    • AzTeXan says:

      This isn’t a fool me twice situation. Orlando has done nothing to deserve being lumped in which the sports heell that is Tampa Bay and Miami. The next pro sports team Orlando doesn’t support will be the first.

    • DG says:

      I lived in Tampa, loved the team there, but understood when it folded. This– is different in every way. The buzz, the marketing, the youth academy, the sponsors, the owners hanging out in the tailgate, the timing in soccer’s development… and the resulting mix of people in the stands. This is for real. Can’t wait to get season tickets!!! Go City!!!

  8. pgloerse says:

    Lost in all of this is the redevelopment of an area of Orlando that is a complete disaster – this stadium is a huge win. Couple this with the Magic LIVE and we finally have a reason to play downtown again. Church St. is going to be hopping!

  9. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Good 4 Orlando. Now please redo your Lion King Crest

    • RB says:

      Ha — yes or maybe lose a color or two from the 4-5 they seem to be using.

      But happy for the soccer fans there.

    • 407 says:

      It’s already part of the finalizing of the franchise agreement. No word yet when the new one (or the new uniforms, or stadium images) will be along, but all of it’s part of the transition from USL to MLS.

      • RB says:

        Oh, crest redesign, you mean? Or a name change or overall rebranding or…?

        • 407 says:

          Just the crest tweaking. It’ll still be “OCSC” with purple as the color and the lion motif in the crest, but the present crest will be tidied up a bit since contractually and legally it becomes the intellectual property of MLS once the club becomes a franchise of MLS.

    • Hogatroge says:

      OCSC has already confirmed that the crest will be changing as it will become a trademark of MLS. The crests for previous expansion teams have been acceptable, so it will probably be improving.

      They have also confirmed they will be keeping purple kits, as they want to “own” purple along w/ Fiorentina.

  10. Jay in Florida says:

    Yessss! I should move to Orlando now since there is no MLS team in South Florida

  11. RB says:

    So when there’s a team in Miami, too, what are they going to call the season series: the Gator Cup? Everglades Cup?

    Tourism Cup, maybe? Hurricane Cup?

    Expansion Cup?

    • 407 says:

      Strip Mall Cup.

      Turnpike Cup.

      Land Boom Cup.

      Asphalt Cup.

      Black Socks with Shorts and Sandals Cup.

      Del Boca Vista Cup.

      Early Bird Special Cup.

      Humidity Cup.

      Swamp Gas Cup.

      Heat Index Cup.

      • RB says:

        Wow!

        One of yours there reminds me: Snowbird Cup?

        Also you could go historical with Ponce de León Cup or Fountain of Youth Cup…

      • Increase says:

        I like Humidity Cup actually…. I’m kinda serious. Houston gets to be part of that too though.

      • FRANK FROM SANTIAGO says:

        pimps & ho’s cup ?!?

        • 407 says:

          It could really be done up right with a bunch of seriously Florida-specific ideas:

          (Snow Bird Cup is excellent, btw.)

          - Foreclosure Cup.

          - Paved Paradise Now a Parking Lot Cup.

          - Tacky Tourist Cup.

          - No State Income Tax Cup.

          - Sinkhole Cup.

          - Chlorine and Sunburns Cup.

          - Swimming on New Year’s Day Cup.

          - 92-Degrees at 2am During the Summer Cup.

          - Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice Cup.

          - Winter Coat in the Back of Your Closet Cup.

        • francis says:

          Casey Anthony Cup/George Zimmerman Shield

    • Flacotex says:

      The Retirement Cup? More importantly, Miami wants to play for cups against cities in the Northeast where all of their rivals are. Welcome to MLS Orlando!

  12. Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

    Which location in NC would make for a better MLS team? Raleigh/Durham or Charlotte? Purely hypothetical

    • Herc says:

      Charlotte Eagles or Carolina Railhawks, which name do you like better?

      (And unfortunately its too small of a market, but the Wilmington Hammerheads have an awesome name!)

    • Roman Lewandowski says:

      Charlotte is a much bigger market. The Charlotte metro area still is larger than the entire Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill one. The problem is that Charlotte has a joke of a USL team, and Raleigh has a respectable NASL team. These circumstances probably will prevent MLS expansion into either city in the near future. It’s too bad. MLS in NC would be phenomenal and well-supported.

  13. AzTeXan says:

    Now that Rawlins has his MLS team he can do the smart thing and help bring back the USL Pro Austin Aztex as an affiliate. It’s the right thing to do really, he owes us.

  14. AzTeXan says:

    PS For all you lady’s men out there, Orlando is considered the Cougar Capital of America by many. Why do you think that Ives is so excited to make Florida road trips again?

    link to twitter.com

    HIDE YO WOMEN!!! HIDE YO DAUGHTERS!!!! IVES IS ON THE LOOSE!!!!!

  15. Snordo says:

    What a waste of money. Why would you want to put an MLS team, let alone any team, in Orlando? What players are actually going to want to play there? I feel bad for the players :(

    • Adam says:

      I take it you have never been here…

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      When I was in Orlando it was snowing at my place and 70 degrees and sunny there.
      Plus it was beautiful. Seemed like a very nice city.

    • Camjam says:

      I have to say, as a Salt Lake fan (don’t get me wrong; I actually love this place), that comment is nonsense.

      And frankly, our team seems to do just fine getting good players.

    • bkbooger says:

      #1 tourist destination in the world. No property taxes. I think you will find some players willing to play there. I just wonder how this effects Beckham prospective Miami squad.

      • bodeguero says:

        No property taxes? Ha!!! My property tax bill almost equals my mortgage! We pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

        FL doesn’t have state income tax, which IS a perk, but the property taxes make that perk disappear. Quickly.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      They are the best attended minor league team left (after some of the lower hanging fruit like Montreal got picked). However, they’ve not had to sustain the current level of attendance very long, it is a substantial increase, and I think it’s a fair question whether they will scale up to MLS numbers at MLS ticket prices in that small a city. And then there’s a whole Florida history.

      I actually feel more confident about NYC2 because it’s a massive city that I think can sustain at least 2 teams geographically separated.

      I am a little concerned MLS is starting to balloon and that some of the site choices are getting riskier. At some point NASL history becomes relevant. There is no inherent need for a particular league size, pro/rel, or a permanent second division. The imperatives are survival and thriving.

    • Hogatroge says:

      Well, Brazilians frickin’ love Orlando, so I’m sure they could raid the lower divisions there!

  16. Jo Nathan says:

    OCSC OCSC OCSC!

  17. Jubez says:

    I like the way this whole thing was accomplished. The recent expansion with clubs that already have significant experience in other leagues has been wholly positive (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Montreal). This really appears to be the way to go. Despite their on field ineptitude, Toronto can be argued to have been successful, even with attendance drop offs the past couple years. I don’t doubt NYCFC will also be able to make it work. However, if I were The Garber, I’d be more interested in existing teams with a base of support for my future expansion sides.

    In my opinion, developing or purchasing an MLS2 would make a lot of success for expansion post 2015. Allow a related Tier 2 league to develop, with success within the business model of MLS being a major part of the criteria for jumping to tier 1. It might encourage lower level owners with aspirations for an MLS side greater impetus to build the team/facilities if already under the MLS umbrella.

    My2 cents.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      If you start off with what TFC did, a dropoff can be quite tolerated. The comparison between them and Chivas is interesting, in terms of loyalty.

  18. bottlcaps says:

    Kudos to Orlando. A lot of cities are reluctant to spend future tax dollars on attracting and retaining pro sports teams.

    I live near Tucson and the City spent millions of future tax dollars (same source,;bed and rental tax) in a (vain) attempt at keeping pro-baseball spring training in Tucson as most of the teams were lured away to Phoenix.

    At one time, Tucson had four pro-teams based in Tucson. One at the Historic Reid Park ( see Major League) and the new paid-for-by-tax-dollars, Tucson Electric Park, built for the Diamondbacks and shared by the White Sox.

    After expending all the money, the Diamonbaxks, Rockies, White Sox all left for newer stadiums in Phoenix, leaving Tucson with a new stadium and no tenants.

    The story has a happy ending, for Tucson and the Electric park. The Desert Diamond Cup, uses the facility (as well as others around town) to host the games for the Cup.

    Last year the Cup brought in 10 MLS teams and several other lower-divsion and foreign clubs for a “spring training) before and after the DD Cup!.

    And it will be the same this year.

    Tucson has discovered soccer. We have our own PDL team, FC Tucson and exposure to Foreign as well some of MLS best teams from January to March.

    Orlando would do well to start a Grapefruit League, as a companion to the Cactus League and tournament that Tucson has found.

    • Darwin says:

      I lived in Tucson for 3 years, working at the UofA. Pick up soccer games a plenty. I miss that place.