By Paul Kennedy
Will Weatherfordmay be most hated man in Florida soccer circles.
Never heard of him? He's the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and he managed to seriously compromise the MLS expansion dreams of two Florida markets, Orlando and Miami, with one deed of inaction.
He killed a bill that would have provided funding support for a proposed MLS stadium in downtown Orlando and renovations to Miami's Sun Life Stadium, which is considered the likely home to any Miami team.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who has been pushing the soccer stadium project, blamed Weatherford for the failure of the bill, which passed the Florida Senate.
"I don't think anybody was blocking the stadium from coming through," Weatherford told the Orlando Sentinel. "I think that at the end of the day some bills pass and some bills die."
The legislative session ended Friday night before the House bill was put to a vote.
Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said the Miami Dolphins’ request for money to pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium compromised the bill.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose RSE Ventures is getting heavily involved in soccer, also blamed Weatherford, saying the speaker had given his word the bill would at least come up for a vote.
“He put politics before the people," Ross said," and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong."
The Dolphins were pushing to get the Super Bowl back to South Florida.
The bill's failure was the latest setback for the Orlando expansion bid, which had picked up steam this year. The stadium project has failed to get support from Orange County officials and more downtown land needs to be acquired for the city of Orlando to have everything set aside for its soccer stadium.
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