MLS Soccer Coming to Orlando

Filed under: Orlando City Soccer,Orlando News |

MLS Soccer is coming to Orlando!

A gigantic step was taken this afternoon at Orange County Tourist Development Council as Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer agreed to a deal that will complete funding of a downtown multi-purpose soccer stadium, one of the final steps the club had in its way to bringing a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to town.

The $20 million deal for the stadium still has two more steps to go as a final vote of the Orange County Board of Commissioners and the City of Orlando Board of Commissioners are due within the next 30 days. Both votes will now be seen as something of a formality and it now seems that nothing stands in the way of Orlando becoming the 21st MLS franchise in 2015.

“We’re one of the few communities in the country that can build outstanding facilities,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “ We are excited to be able to potentially bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Orange County.“

The two mayors made the announcement after the club and three other groups made presentations to the TDC, which unanimously approved a plan that included funding of a multi-purpose soccer stadium. A recommendation will be given to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, who will ultimately have the final vote of approval.

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

Friday’s meeting completed the second of two public workshops in which the club made its case to complete a financing plan using Tourist Development Tax.

“Orlando nets a big goal,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “With the addition of soccer, we’re marrying the world’s most popular game with the #1 tourist destination.”

The Tourist Development Council voted 8-0 to approve a $94.5 million package that not only includes the $20M to Orlando City Soccer but also more funding for the $503 million Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center, the Florida Citrus Bowl and millions of dollars more for tourism marketing.

In total, there will be an additional $25 million, spread across five years, to boost tourism marketing that will be added to the $36 million that Visit Orlando will get next fiscal year.  Another $25 million will be paid out to complete the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts by 2018 and the Citrus Bowl’s $191 million renovations budget will get an extra $12 million to enhance its chances of landing more premier sports events. Adding to that will also be $2.5 million to be used for luring major sporting events to Orlando over five years.

Finally,  there will be a further $10 million in convention-center improvements on top of $187 million in upgrades planned during the next five years that had already been approved.

All this money for the marketing and convention-center improvements are slated to come from tourist-tax reserves, while the venue projects would be paid for from the growth in future tourist-tax revenues.

Mayor Jacobs praised the support of the tourism industry and said “The reason we are here today to talk about one more venue is because we have excess tourist-tax dollars that can be used for such a project. All of that is possible because of a strong tourism community.”

Once all of this is complete, Orlando is going to be some place to live, work or play. It’s impossible to really fathom the impact that all of this will have on our already growing area but I think it’s safe to say that we’re heading towards becoming one of the places in the world that people want to visit for many other reasons than just the best world class theme parks in the area. Exciting times ahead and we’ll be here to report on it all!

Here’s the video from Tuesday’s County Commission meeting:

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