Stadium Approved: Orlando City is MLS Bound

Orange County votes 5-2 in favor of new stadium for Orlando City
by Danny Morales   |   Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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

ORLANDO – Orlando City President Phil Rawlins dream of bringing MLS soccer to Orlando is nearly a reality after the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of using Tourist Development Tax (TDT) to help fund the club’s new stadium on Tuesday night.

“It was the fulfillment of a dream to me,” said the Orlando City president following the final vote. “This is seven years in the making.”

Orlando City is now one step closer to becoming an MLS franchise with help from $20 million in TDT from Orange County. The City of Orlando will pull their weight to the tone of $15 million.

The County Commissioners vote came one day after MLS President Mark Abbott visited Orlando and told reporters that all the club needed now for expansion was approval on a new stadium.

“We thank the Orange County and City of Orlando Board of Commissioners for their support to build a soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando,” said Abbott in a statement following the vote. “We also would like to thank Flavio Augusto da Silva, Phil Rawlins and their staff for their passion and commitment to bring a Major League Soccer team to Orlando. … We look forward to working with the Orlando City SC ownership group to finalize an expansion agreement.”

Now Rawlins will return to the negotiating table with MLS officials to work on the final expansion contract. He expects to be able to announce the clubs jump to America’s top tier of soccer by the end of the year, or before Thanksgiving if possible.

Danny Morales, Orlando City SC

Rawlins plans on speaking with MLS Commissioner Don Garber as soon as Wednesday morning.

“It’s really dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s at this stage,” said Rawlins. “We get the agreement finished off and we work on it (expeditiously), which we’re both committed to doing, I’m sure we’ll get this finished up by the end of the year.”

A likely date for the expansion announcement is Sunday, Nov. 10, when the U.S. Women’s National Team comes to Orlando to face Brazil. The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN and should draw a big crowd to the Citrus Bowl.

With the club’s new stadium now funded, Rawlins mission is nearly accomplished. All that’s left is the paperwork and Orlando City can expect to join the MLS for the 2015 season.

“This was the last hurdle really,” said Rawlins. “I think with the support of the MLS we’ll get the contracts done here in the next few weeks and then it’ll be about putting the hard work in to get ready for our first-kick in March of 2015.”

Danny Morales, Orlando City SC

Orlando City owner Flavio Augusto da Silva was in his native Brazil during the vote, but Rawlins said they expect him to be in town for the MLS announcement.

“I’m sure he’ll be here for the announcement,” said Rawlins when asked about da Silva. “We expect him to be here in the next couple of weeks when that happens.”

Multiple players were also in attendance for the big County vote, including two guys who have been with the team since their days as the Austin Aztex in Miguel Gallardo and Jamie Watson.

“This year has been one of the best years of my life,” said Watson. “Professionally this is one of the best things to be a part of.”

He added, “We’ve won championships, nothing can ever take away from that feeling, but to have cared so much, and to have put so much time and effort into something, and to see it come to fruition gives you so much more of a gratitude towards it.” 


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.