Funds For Orlando Soccer Stadium Could Face Challenge From Local Tourism Industry
The push for a new professional soccer stadium in downtown Orlando “could pit the region's powerful tourism industry against boosters of the world's most popular sport,” according to Schlueb & Damron of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The stadium proposal “depends on public funds covering more than two-thirds of the price tag,” and a portion of that money “could be tourist taxes already earmarked for Visit Orlando, the group of hoteliers and others in the tourism industry who jealously guard their funding.” The conflicting interests “demonstrate the challenges Orlando City Soccer Club faces as it tries to cobble together support" for what would be the only MLS franchise in the Southeast. The club, which currently plays in the USL Pro division, has pledged $30M, and the "rest would be a mix of state sales tax, cash and land from Orlando, and tourist taxes controlled by Orange County.” Tourist taxes “wouldn't have to be increased,” as the money in question “is already being collected.” Visit Orlando "projects it will receive" about $36.3M in tourist taxes this year, but is "expecting" a $2.8M bump in funding in '18. That surplus is what Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando City Owner & President Phil Rawlins “have asked county officials to steer toward the stadium.” Dyer and Rawlins have “opted for a more diplomatic approach in recent weeks, meeting with leaders from Visit Orlando and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association to win support.” Their pitch is MLS would be “broadcast around the world, bringing wide exposure to Orlando as a travel destination" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/23). In Orlando, Mark Schlueb reports the City Council yesterday approved the $4M purchase of "four parcels of land in Parramore, a block west of the Amway Center.” City officials "would not confirm the property is the favored site" for a soccer stadium. Rather, the Council called that purchase a "strategic acquisition" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/26).