Commentary

Orlando commissioners approve funds for proposed soccer stadium

By Paul Kennedy

The Orlando group seeking an MLS expansion team cleared another hurdle when the Orlando board of commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve the use of Tourist Development Tax funds for multiple venues, including a proposed downtown soccer stadium.

Those funds for the soccer stadium would amount to $20 million of the $94.5 million in tax revenues. Other moneys would be used for the construction of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, renovation of the Citrus Bowl and tourism marketing.

“This is obviously a very big step toward our goal of bringing MLS,” said Orlando City president Phil Rawlins. “I am delighted to have the City behind us so we can now focus on the second vote that is only two weeks away.”

That vote on Oct. 22 is by the Orange County commissioners, where there has been more resistance to the stadium project.

After initial reservations, Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs agreed to join Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer in recommending the use of the Tourist Development Tax for the MLS stadium.

Several county commissioners have been seeking concessions from the Orlando City soccer group to pay for recreation projects that would provide park space for soccer fields.

Flavio Augusto da Silva, the Brazilian owner of Orlando City SC, set this fall as the target for the announcement of Orlando as MLS's 21st team to begin play in 2015.

Orlando City, winner of USL PRO titles in 2011 and 2013, is building its 2014 USL PRO roster with the idea that it will be in MLS in 2015.

Four of the last five MLS expansion teams -- Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal -- were outgrowths of existing clubs that had played in USL leagues.
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