Report: New Stadium Approved for Orlando City in Unanimous Decision

Columnist Danny Morales reports from Orlando as the Tourist Development Council approves plan for stadium funding
by Danny Morales   |   Saturday, August 10, 2013

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

ORLANDO – Orlando City President Phil Rawlins' dream to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Orlando moved a step closer to fruition on Friday, as Orange County’s Tourist Development Council (TDC) approved unanimously a plan that secures $20 million in Tourist Development Tax (TDT) to fund the club’s new downtown multi-purpose stadium.

“We are delighted to have the support of the tourism industry and the TDC,” said Rawlins following the meeting. “We look forward to working with the Board of Commissioners over the next few weeks as we make this thing a reality.”

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer made the announcement during a press conference immediately following the TDC meeting.

“Today the conversation moves forward into how can we build a stadium to accommodate about 20,000 seats and bring an MLS team here,” said Jacobs during the press conference before the room erupted in applause.

“We are excited that this funding plan paves the way to bring Major League Soccer to Central Florida,” Dyer said. “With the addition of soccer we are marrying the world’s most popular sport with the world’s leading tourist destination.”

The club now must wait on a vote from the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), who saw Rawlins’ presentation on Tuesday during their board meeting. A vote could come as soon as the end of August.

If the BCC vote to approve funding, construction on the 18,000 seat multi-purpose stadium could begin as soon as January or February 2014, according to Rawlins, with the club beginning to play at the facility midway through 2015.

The securing of the stadium funding will allow club officials to wrap-up expansion negotiations with MLS. Rawlins hopes to have the franchise awarded by the end of 2013.

If that is the case, and Orlando City begins play in MLS in 2015, the team would have to play the first portion of the season in the newly-renovated Citrus Bowl before moving into their new stadium. The club’s situation come 2015 could look much like that of the San Jose Earthquakes, who will not begin playing in their new stadium until the second half of the 2014 season due to stadium delays.

Multiple Orlando players and coaches were in attendance for Friday’s TDC meeting, including assistant coach/midfielder Ian Fuller, as well as defender Rob Valentino.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Valentino about the TDC’s decision to approve funding for the stadium. “It brought a smile to my face and I’m proud to have been a part of something so special.

“When they open that stadium I think we’ll look back at this day and be very excited that we were here,” added Valentino.

Club manager Adrian Heath was also in attendance on Friday, sitting next to Rawlins throughout the entirety of the meeting.

“This has been a long time coming for us,” said Heath after the vote came in. “Six years ago we had a dream of coming to America and starting a major league football club and now it looks like we’re in touching distance of that. It’s been a great day for us.”

Orlando City officials have believed they could join MLS since the day the club rebranded in Orlando following 2 years as the Austin Aztex.

During his presentation on Friday, Rawlins mentioned the idea of a supporters march on match days that would see fans walking down Church St., past the Amway Center and finally reaching the stadium, much like the “March to the Match” the Seattle Sounders perform.

"Our new investors were intrigued by Orlando as a market," said Rawlins in a 2010 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, following the rebranding announcement.

"We thought, let's take a successful franchise and move it into a market that we believe has got major-league potential.”

Danny MORALES

Nationality:
USA
College:
Valencia College
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid
Former athlete turned journalist who remembers the days of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, Danny now writes Orlando City news while chronicling the clubs move to become an MLS franchise.
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