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Orange County, Fla., commissioners last night voted 5-2 to "pitch in $20 million in tourist taxes as the county's share" of the proposed $84M, 18,000-seat soccer stadium in downtown Orlando, which "all but guarantees that the city will win" an MLS franchise, according to a front-page piece by Schlueb & Damron of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The MLS club will "adopt the name and colors" of the purple-clad USL Pro Orlando City FC Lions. The Orlando City Soccer Club has "been in discussions with MLS executives, who said a new franchise would come here if a soccer-specific stadium were built." Orlando City Soccer Club Owner & President Phil Rawlins said of being awarded a franchise, "We're looking at a four- to six-week window to get the documentation finished up, to get a franchise agreement finalized and for an announcement to be made." Schlueb & Damron note after MLS awards a franchise, "only one obstacle would remain before construction starts: the land." Most of the property "already has been bought, but city officials have filed condemnation actions in court to acquire two holdout lots." Rawlins said that he hopes work "can begin in the spring, with construction lasting 15 months and an opening" in summer '15. Public funding for the soccer stadium includes the $20M in tourist taxes approved Tuesday; "$20 million from Orlando; and smaller amounts from other jurisdictions, including $2 million from Seminole County." The team would contribute $30M "toward construction and pay $675,000 a year for the next 25 years." The city would "convert the annual payments into $10 million that could be used upfront for construction" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/23). SI.com's Brian Straus noted Rawlins and Orlando City FC Investor Flavio Augusto da Silva also will be "on the hook for the MLS expansion fee, which is a reported" $70M. Orlando City FC has played at the Citrus Bowl, but with that stadium "slated for renovation, the club will require temporary digs next year" (SI.com, 10/22).
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: In K.C., Charles Gooch notes MLS' next franchise candidates could "come from the South -- a region that's been under-represented in the league since" the Tampa Bay Mutiny folded in '02. Atlanta and a David Beckham-backed Miami group "are thought to be among the front-runners," but Minneapolis, Detroit and Sacramento also have "been rumored as potential targets." If Orlando joins N.Y. in '15, MLS "will have added 11 teams" since '04. That is "an impressive amount of growth for a league that once had the majority of its teams owned by two men, Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz" (K.C. STAR, 10/23). In Orlando, Paul Tenorio wrote MLS is "in a far different state than even a decade ago." Since contracting the last two Florida teams in '02, MLS "has rebounded and surged forward." Since '05, "10 new stadiums have been built or renovated for soccer." No longer is the league "home to retired stars and second-best American players." It boasts "two of the country's top-three stars" -- the Galaxy's Landon Donovan and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey -- "and international players still fully capable of competing in top leagues abroad" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 10/22).
The Bobcats are capitalizing on the rapid growth of microbreweries in North Carolina by opening the new Craft Beer Garden this season at Time Warner Cable Arena. Nine local and regional craft brewers will share 18 taps at a themed destination in the arena’s upper deck. The new space, a $75,000 investment paid for by the Bobcats, replaces the old Flight Deck bar at the eight-year-old facility. The redevelopment is tied to three-year sponsorships the brewers signed with the Bobcats, with a total value in the low to mid six figures annually, said team Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli. As part of the deal, the brewers receive digital sign exposure in the arena, hospitality and experiential marketing tied to local brewery events. Dandelion Market, a Charlotte pub, is the destination’s presenting sponsor and its deal is included in the sponsorship’s overall value, Guelli said. In '12, the state of North Carolina had 70 craft breweries producing about 160,000 barrels, ranking among the nation’s top 10 in that beer category. As a result, the Bobcats recognized craft beer is a “hot growth topic” statewide and the Craft Beer Garden helps the team improve the fan experience by providing higher quality beers and strengthens the team’s beer category with a greater selection, he said. The nine brewers showcasing their products are Duck Rabbit and Mother Earth (Raleigh), Foothills (Winston-Salem), Highland (Asheville), Natty Greene’s (Greensboro) and Heist, NoDa, Olde Mecklenburg, Triple C (Charlotte). All those beers will be served in the arena’s lower level as well. Draft beer prices are $8 and $10. The Crafty Beer Guys, a Charlotte firm, designed the space with tables, chairs and televisions to watch the game. Bobcats VP/Marketing Partnerships Dave Beck spearheaded the deal. The Craft Beer Garden opens Nov. 1 for the Bobcats’ regular-season opener against the Cavaliers. The renovation is the first of several upgrades the team is developing as part of its re-launch of the Hornets’ brand for the '14-15 season, Guelli said.
Ann Arbor officials are planning to ask the Univ. of Michigan to "decommission its new digital billboard" outside Michigan Stadium, according to Ryan Stanton of MLIVE.com. City council members argue the large marquee "is too big, too bright and too distracting to drivers with its continually changing messages." Council members Margie Teall and Marcia Higgins are "planning to bring forward a resolution at the council's next meeting on Nov. 7 to formally make a request" to UM. The video marquee, which was installed a few months ago, is located between Michigan Stadium and Crisler Center. UM AD Dave Brandon has said that the $2.8M marquee "is in step with the electronic displays featured by other major college athletic programs." But Teall said, "We've gotten a lot of emails from residents who are rightfully upset about this. I think they feel it's a blight on the landscape." Stanton noted the new billboard promotes UM athletics "morning, afternoon and night, encouraging fans to visit MGoBlue.com, buy tickets and follow U-M on Twitter and Facebook." But it is "not the content of the billboard that city officials are complaining about." The City Council in June amended Ann Arbor's signs and outdoor advertising ordinance "to prohibit new digital billboards or conversions of old billboards to digital, while imposing limits on the size and brightness of illuminated signs" (MLIVE.com, 10/22).