Orlando City moves one step closer to finalizing new stadium


Photo Credit: Danny Morales

Orlando City president Phil Rawlins speaking to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Orlando City S.C. made the first of two “crucial” presentations on Tuesday, seeking collaborative funding from Orange County to assist in financing the club’s multi-purpose soccer stadium using Tourist Development Tax (TDT).

The club went into Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting to ask for $20 million in TDT money to help finance phase one of the proposed downtown stadium, a step which Orlando City president Phil Rawlins calls “the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle,” in regards to bringing a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to Orlando.

Supporters of the club showed up in numbers on Tuesday, having filled up not only the main meeting room but also an overflow room that was set up for the day. Orlando City launched their #PurplePride campaign last week, urging fans to show up to this week’s meetings wearing purple to show their support of bringing MLS to Orlando.

The meeting started with statements from the public, which included United World Soccer owner Tom Traxler telling the board that Orlando City jerseys are outselling those of Chelsea, Arsenal and any MLS team in his store, which is located in the Florida Mall.

After representatives for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and Florida Citrus Bowl made their pitches for TDT money, Rawlins took to the podium for his presentation. During Rawlins pitch to the board he mentioned that “soccer has arrived in this country,” and that the goal is to become the next MLS expansion team.

MLS commissioner Don Garber announced at last week’s All-Star game the league’s plan to expand to 24 teams by 2020, including two teams in the Southeast.

“Orlando City leads that race,” said Rawlins during his presentation. “We are in poll position.”

The club still hopes to join MLS in 2015, along with New York FC, despite not having their entire stadium financed yet.

“If we get the support of the commission and assistance on this in the next couple months,” said Rawlins about the desired 2015 start date. “Then we can still make that a possibility.

“Right now we know that we can get the stadium built and open in 2015,” added Rawlins. “Just when in 2015 depends on when we can put a shovel in the ground. Certainly by the middle of 2015 is a very, very doable date.”

Rawlins also mentioned during his presentation the club’s intentions to bring in a designated player once they reach MLS, a “Brazilian Beckham,” as Rawlins calls it.

Not everyone was in favor of the downtown stadium on Tuesday, as District 3 commissioner Pete Clarke asked Rawlins following his presentation why the stadium couldn’t be built on I-Drive. There was also one Parramore resident who strongly disapproved of the stadium, asking the club why they felt the stadium needed to be built in the Parramore community.

Orlando City officials will return to the Orange County Administration Building on Friday, August 9 at 1:30 p.m. to make their presentation to the Tourist Development Council (TDC). Following Friday’s meeting with the TDC the club will then wait for a vote to come down on their proposal for the TDT money. A vote is not expected until late August or early September at the earliest.

The soccer stadium was not the only presentation made on Tuesday, the Dr. Phillips Center also made their pitch for the use of TDC to complete the Performing Arts Center’s third stage by 2018.

“I know I would be reluctant to support any other use of the TDC until we complete the Performing Arts Center.” said Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs following the presentations.