Florida legislature stiffs Orlando City (and others)

The Republican-dominated Florida Legislature found a way to burst the bubble on Orlando City's fairy-tale start to its MLS adventure. The House of Representatives adjourned three days early in a dispute with the Senate over Medicaid expansion, leaving $30 million in funding for Orlando City's new city-owned stadium in limbo.

Last year, the Florida Legislature approved funding for sports facilities in the form of state sales-tax rebates, making the Orlando City downtown stadium and other Florida sports facilities (arenas, stadiums and raceways) eligible for the money paid out in yearly rebates.

Leading the fight to vacate last year's legislature has been the budget chairman and speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, who opposes using public money to give rebates to "rich people."

"I don't understand how you can claim to have a fiscal crisis on health care," he said, "but can find millions of dollars in subsidies for billionaire sports owners."

The new Orlando City stadium wasn't the only victim of the impasse in Tallahassee. All other kinds of legislation died on the vine, including a key water legislation package and prison reform bill.



In the meantime, work has begun slowly on getting the site along Church Street ready for construction. The overall cost for the stadium that will initially seat 19,500 fans is $115 million. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer has not commented since the legislature recessed but he did say last week that the money from the rebates was integral to the new stadium and there was no "Plan B."

Orlando station WFTV reported last week that the extra money would go toward expansion of the seating capacity to 25,000, construction of a roof over the north end of the stadium and extending over the east and west end stands, luxury suites, supporters pub and party terraces.

Orlando City is playing its first season at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, which was itself reconstructed to the tune of more than $200 million and reopened this year.

Orlando City sold out its opener against New York City FC with a crowd of 62,510 and has drawn more than 30,000 fans for each home game since then -- all losses -- to set an MLS record for the largest average attendance for a club's first four games.

9 comments about "Florida legislature stiffs Orlando City (and others)".
  1. Edward Joyce, April 29, 2015 at 4:40 p.m.

    Which means they dont need a new stadium

  2. Raymond Weigand, April 29, 2015 at 4:46 p.m.

    The old switcheroo ... the State has $200 Billion + in debt ... 3 times their annual budget ... they could really use the stadium money to make an interest payment ... so they are able to borrow more. The ownership group should review Plan - B. I think San Diego will sell you their stadium for cheap ... as soon as the Chargers move to Los Angeles.

  3. K.c. Mcelroy, April 29, 2015 at 4:56 p.m.

    That attendance is not a record, as Seattle attracts at least that many all the time

  4. Mike Jacome, April 29, 2015 at 5:19 p.m.

    I would advise OCSC to save that money to get a better team and or a better coach and get really competitive, if they had gotten nothing but victories instead of losses,the attendance would be by now steadily increasing instead of decreasing. In any case even if they manage to keep the interest up enough until the end of the season, I think they could keep up with at least 30,000 per game average for 2016 season in which case it would be better to stay in the Citrus Bowl for good. What I would also recommend, is do as Seattle does and plan for three or four big games at a cheaper rate per seat during the season, to get the stadium at full capacity.

  5. Andrew Busa, April 29, 2015 at 7:39 p.m.

    @K.c Mceloy

    >That attendance is not a record, as Seattle attracts at least that many all the time

    The statement is only looking at the first 4 games. Orlando has drawn more fans in its first 4 games than Seattle did.

    The first 4 games in Seattle in 2009 drew

    32,523
    28,548
    28,746
    28,838

  6. Andrea Hana, April 30, 2015 at 10:02 a.m.

    The city should consider investing the money for a percentage of the profits. If it was willing to give tax breaks in the form of rebates, it shouldn't have any problem with that kind of decision. That would be fair to everyone. At least, no one could complain.

  7. beautiful game, April 30, 2015 at 12:12 p.m.

    Citrus bowl field looked fine to me. What's the hurry; a bigger venue with a good team should succeed; that is "A GOOD TEAM."

  8. Ray Shines, April 30, 2015 at 1:14 p.m.

    Can KC McElroy do math?

    Orlando's first four games in 2015: 39,328 average.
    Seattle's first four games in 2009: 29,664 average

  9. Mike Jacome, April 30, 2015 at 6:11 p.m.

    KC McElroy has a point, because the article is ambiguous. It says "to set an MLS record for the largest average attendance for a club's first four games." First four games in a season? or first four games in its inaugural season? If it is the former Seattle is atop of Orlando on this season, because Orlando is 39,328 average in its first four games and Seattle is 40,057. If it's the latter then Orlando is indeed setting a record for an expansion team on his first four games in their inaugural season.

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