Orlando City Soccer to self finance and expand new stadium

Filed under: Florida News,Orlando City Soccer,Orlando News |

Orlando City Soccer Club Media Day, Orlando - 4th March 2015 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

In a press conference earlier this afternoon, Orlando City Soccer has announced its intentions to expand its soccer specific stadium as well as expand it from 19,000 seats to between 25,000 and 28,000 seats.

Team owner Flávio Augusto da Silva also announced the franchise will privately finance the construction of its downtown soccer-specific stadium. The stadium, originally envisioned and pitched as a city-owned venue, will now be owned and operated privately by Orlando City.

“We’ve been having problems funding the stadium, but we’ve got a new solution. We’ll fund this project 100 percent privately,” Augusto da Silva (pictured above) said. “This is a big signal how we believe in this city, how we believe in this community, how we believe in these people, this marketplace and these fans.”

“These fans, the city embraced our team,” Augusto da Silva added. “We are very excited about that. One thing that we have been focused on is learning about this marketplace, how big we are, how big is our marketplace is in Orlando. Our plans in the stadium were between a 19 and 20,000-seat stadium. It’s obvious that we’ve overcome these numbers. Suddenly, we’ve got a problem, a good problem to solve — 19,000 it seems is not enough. We are much bigger than that, Orlando is much bigger than that. We started hearing from our fans and our supporters and we got the message. We need a bigger stadium. We are very focused on building a new stadium between 25,000 and 28,000 seats.”

Orlando City Soccer Club New Stadium, Orlando - 3 March 2015 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

In addition to privately financing the stadium, which officials said is expected to cost more than the originally-projected $115 million, Orlando City will buy back the stadium land from the city.

The arrangement will save the City of Orlando more than $15 million it had pledged for the project, in land and construction funding as well as bring in additional tax revenue for the city, because the privately-owned stadium will now generate property taxes. Further, Orange County will not have to pay $20 million it had committed to the project.

Orlando City FC - "Fill The Bowl" - 5th February 2015 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (pictured above) said the land is expected to be sold to the team for “fair market value.” Dyer also stated that the team is also expected to cover the cost of storm water retention work for the site, which the officials estimated at about $3.1 million. He further commented, “Strong partnerships are the foundation of Central Florida’s success and today’s announcement with Orlando City is another win for our entire community. A new soccer stadium in Downtown Orlando brings significant economic impact not just to Orlando but the entire region.  Another benefit for our City is a privately owned stadium will generate property taxes that we can reinvest in our Parramore and Downtown neighborhoods.”

Orlando City will now take some time to update the construction plans on the stadium and will explore other upgrades in amenities for fans, including in-stadium technology, before moving forward with construction.

The stadium is expected to be completed by the summer of 2016, meaning Orlando City will open next season at the Citrus Bowl.

Orlando City Soccer Club Media Day, Orlando - 23 January 2015 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

“With this new announcement, we will be in the top three stadiums in Major League Soccer” said Orlando City Soccer President Phil Rawlins (pictured above). “We have repeatedly called Orlando the ‘Soccer Capital of the South’ and our fans continue to strengthen that reputation each and every week,” he added.  “The incredible response from our fans and partners has led us to pursue a larger facility with enhanced amenities. We didn’t come here to be average, we came here to continually defy expectations and our vision for the new stadium will rank us among the top three clubs in MLS.”

The announcement comes after stadium construction was delayed awaiting $30 million in state funding that is stuck in the Florida Legislature and it seems the teams owners finally got fed up of the politics and want to move forward.

Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida - 3rd March 2015 (Photographer: Nigel G. Worrall)

A 28,000-seat stadium would give Orlando City the second-largest soccer-specific stadium in MLS. The L.A. Galaxy’s StubHub Center has a capacity of 27,000, while Toronto’s BMO Field has a capacity of approximately 30,000.

During the 2015 season to date, Orlando City has averaged 37,420 fans during its first six home games, including 62,358 in the inaugural game on March 8. Through its first seven home games, nearly 250,000 fans have attended Lions’ matches at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, including over 52,000 from outside the state of Florida – which is roughly the equivalent of a major college bowl game every five weeks. These out-of-state fans inject new money to the local economy by staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, shopping in stores and purchasing services.

The next game for the Lions is tomorrow night when they play host to the Columbus Crew at the Citrus Bowl with a 7:30 p.m kick off time.

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