Legislature to consider bills that would facilitate Major League Soccer stadium
The Orlando City Lions have been playing at the Citrus Bowl for the past few years. A United Soccer Leagues (USL) team, it's all the City Beautiful has right now in the way of professional soccer.
So when Major League Soccer (MLS) announced plans to expand into the southeast, Orlando City owners were quick to kick. CEO and President of Orlando City Phil Rawlins said, "The best opportunity for another major league team in Orlando lies with soccer!"
Orlando has already spent $8.2 million on much of two blocks in Parramore, at the corner of Terry Avenue and Church Street. Leaders say these two blocks would be a perfect place for a brand new soccer stadium to attract the MLS.
If you're wondering why the new team couldn't simply play where the current team does, Rawlins tells us the Citrus Bowl environment doesn't work, adding that it's too big a venue for soccer and affects the excitement level of the fans. He said they need a stadium that seats about 20,000-25,000 fans, in order to attract MLS.
Orlando City says the team is prepared to chip in $30 million toward the $100 million price tag for the stadium, and the city, county, and state would foot the rest of the bill.
"It wouldn't cost taxpayers anything extra in taxes," said Rawlins. "The majority would be funded by the club and the sales tax rebates provided for in those bills we're hoping will pass in the Legislature in Tallahassee the next few days."
He is referring to House Bill No. 219 and Senate Bill No. 306. Right now, sales tax rebates can only be used toward football, baseball, basketball, and hockey leagues. The bills would add soccer to that list.
The deal is structured on expected benefit to the city, based on an economic development feasibility study done by the same group that did the study for the Amway Center.
Rawlins said the study found the stadium would generate about $1.3 billion for the city over the next 30 years. "It's a huge economic engine here," Rawlins added.
The legislative session is scheduled to adjourn May 3. If those bills pass, Orlando is well on its way to getting a major soccer franchise here.