SBD/June 11, 2013/Facilities

Orlando, USL Club Hatch New Plan For Publicly Funded Soccer Stadium In City

USL club Orlando City and Mayor Buddy Dyer "may have come up with a Plan B to get a new taxpayer financed stadium in Orlando: build it in two phases," according to Schlueb, Damron & Tenorio of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Despite a "funding shortfall, Dyer wants to move ahead with a stadium that's scaled back but still plush enough to help Orlando's minor-league soccer team become the next" MLS expansion franchise. Sources said that the franchise fee to join MLS has increased to an estimated $70M from the soccer team, "stretching the club's bankroll" and putting more pressure on Orange County to "help pay for a new stadium." Team owners would "not confirm that figure and say they do not comment on 'rumors and speculation.'" Dyer said, "The team has had really good meetings with the league. The league is very, very interested in getting this done, but the time frame is becoming extremely critical." The initial plan "called for a $110 million stadium, with $30 million coming from the team; $30 million in state sales-tax rebates; $25 million from the county; and $25 million from the city, mostly in land costs." But the state Legislature "failed to approve the sales-tax money." Dyer said that the "first phase would cost about $70 million ... not including land costs of $12 million to $15 million." To bring the "cost down, representatives of the city and the team are considering several options: cutting the size of the roof to leave the end zones exposed; leaving some office and locker-room space unfinished; reducing the number of club areas from three to two; and delaying the installation of 500 to 1,000 seats in one end zone." There is "urgency" stemming from the "specter of David Beckham considering starting a team in Miami with backing from billionaire businessman Marcelo Claure" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 6/8).

TASK AT HAND: In Orlando, Brendan Sonnone notes "MLS to Orlando" Project Dir Brett Lashbrook began his job yesterday, and his "lone task" is getting the franchise "from the USL Pro League into MLS." Lashbrook said, "The sole focus is on the MLS project and everything that involves. A very important aspect is negotiating an expansion agreement and convincing the other owners of Major League Soccer that Orlando will be a great long-term partner. A key part of that discussion hinges on finalizing a stadium plan, very similar to what I was doing in Queens on the New York City II project" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/11).
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