By RYAN TOLMICH
Orlando City will move out of USL Pro and into MLS in 2015, but that does not mean that the franchise will lose its place in the third division. It will remain, just in a different city.
The rights to Orlando City’s USL Pro franchise will head to Louisville, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, and will be renamed Louisville City FC in a relocation that was headed by Orlando City minority owner and Louisville architect Wayne Estopinal. It is expected that a formal announcement will come on Wednesday.
Louisville City FC is expected to continue to use Orlando City’s purple color scheme despite implementing a new logo that pays homage to the area with a gold Fleur-de-lis in front of a purple barrel. It is also anticipated that current Orlando City player-coach James O’Connor will be named the full-time head coach of the Louisville team, and that the club will play its home games at Slugger Field. Fans have already committed to purchasing roughly 2,000 season-ticket packages.
As part of the deal, Orlando City have agreed to make Louisville City FC their USL Pro affiliate for five years. That means the Lions will have to send four players a season to Louisville for development.
In terms of scheduling, Louisville City FC will have to work around Triple-A baseball team Louisville Bats’ schedule. The Bats are the primary tenants at Slugger Field, but have agreed to allow the stadium to be used for soccer the day after a baseball game is played.
“They have to determine if that works, and as far as the actual structure of the deal, I’m not going to disclose all of the details but it’s pretty much designed to be that the soccer team doesn’t pay much in the way of rent,” said Bats CEO Gary Ulmer. “They just pay for their expenses, and we control the concessions. If we can make some concession money to help us operate this stadium, we’re always looking for other events to do that.”
Added Estopinal: “I think it needs to be understood that this is a very new venture for Louisville, the city and the Bats. We’re all working together. We’re all learning each day how to do that. It’s a very passionate sport. We’ll work our way through this, and hopefully, we’ll have the announcement Wednesday and see it forward.”
What do you think of the move to Louisville? Think the city will support the USL Pro team well? Impressed with Orlando City’s moves ahead of their arrival to MLS?
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