THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Soccer franchise Orlando City is going forward with plans for a downtown soccer-only stadium, privately paying for a project that has been waiting months for state lawmakers to act on a funding package for stadium-construction projects.
Orlando City majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva announced on May 29 that the first year Major League Soccer franchise, which is drawing more than 37,000 people per match, will build a 25,000- to 28,000-seat stadium.
“We’ll fund this project 100 percent privately,” Augusto da Silva announced during a live-streamed media event. “This is a big signal of how we believe in this city, how we believe in this community, how we believe in these people and this marketplace and these fans.”
The goal is to start building as soon as possible so the stadium can open next summer, he added.
Orlando and Orlando City have been among four projects seeking legislative approval to receive sales-tax dollars for construction or renovation. However, the odds continue to dwindle that the money will get approved.
Lawmakers had set aside a $7 million pot of money for stadium projects in 2014. Applications were submitted from Orlando, Daytona International Speedway, Sun Life Stadium, which houses the Miami Dolphins, and EverBank Field in Jacksonville. But lawmakers ended this spring’s legislative session without approving money for any of the projects.
Orlando City had been planning an $85 million stadium that would seat 19,500, with the hope of receiving an additional $30 million from the state to expand the seating. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said under the plan announced last Friday the city will sell the land to Orlando City at a fair market rate instead of the land being donated.
Orlando City will also pay the city to relocate storm-water retention facilities, which could cost about $3 million, Dyer said. “I cannot think of a more win-win scenario,” Dyer concluded. “I was going to say home run, but it doesn’t fit with the right sport.”