Special Edition Update - Major League Soccer


In follow up to the August 9th meeting of the Orange County Tourist Development Council (TDC), and as Chairman of the TDC, I wanted to share a brief update on developments related to soccer, as well as my reasons for supporting the request for funding for the stadium that will be required to secure a Major League Soccer franchise.
To begin, some important facts regarding the funds that are available for TDT projects:
  • Known as Tourist Development Taxes (TDT), these tax dollars are generated by visitors to Central Florida via hotel room taxes. 
  • TDT funds are NOT generated by local residents, and by state law, we cannot use TDT for local projects, such as transportation or education. 
  • TDT funds may ONLY be used for marketing and advertising of Central Florida as a destination for leisure and business travel; for the support and operation of our Orange County Convention Center; or for cultural or sports venues that help generate visitors to the area.

Within the framework of those permissible uses, and in the spirit of why TDT funds even exist - to protect and grow our market-share of the competitive global leisure and business travel economy - on August 9th the TDC considered a variety of strategic projects to boost Central Florida's long-term appeal as a visitor destination as well as increasing the quality of life for local residents and families. Included was a request for TDT from Orlando Mayor Dyer to be used to construct a facility in which major league soccer games can be played.

Those of you involved with youth, amateur or professional soccer leagues are likely up to speed on the details of this project. However, knowing that many may not have a connection to soccer, I'd like to provide some detailed information on the proposal to bring Major League Soccer (MLS) to our community.


Project Cost
From the start of my conversations with soccer nearly two years ago, the two conditions I proposed were that the team would need to put in 50% of the cost of this public facility and they would need to enter into a long-term lease.  We have achieved those goals.

For clarification, although the cost of the stadium (including land) has frequently been referred to as $85M, the actual cost is $80M.  The reason for the difference is the City of Orlando, not the soccer team, will own the stadium. Governments are not required to pay sales tax on construction materials or fixtures, thus reducing the cost of the stadium by $5M. Of that $80M, Orlando City Soccer will pay half.

The Benefits

The new stadium will be a multi-use public facility, not a private soccer stadium, as it is often referred to.


There will be economic benefits of having this multi-use outdoor stadium. Once constructed, we will have a publicly owned, multi-use stadium that will accommodate concerts, sporting events and gatherings that are simply not suited for the Citrus Bowl. Possible events include NCAA Men's and Women's College Cup games, Big East Men's Soccer Tournaments, SEC and ACC Women's Soccer Tournaments, various Florida High School State Boys and Girls athletic finals, and of course, Major League Soccer.


Soccer is the number one international sport. With the growing popularity of soccer among our youth and adults, supporting soccer makes sense. When you add the exploding number of soccer-loving fans who visit Central Florida from South America and the UK, it makes good sense to enter into a 50/50 partnership in support of a multi-use outdoor public stadium.


At last week's TDC meeting, I also proposed additional funding for our existing venues, most notably a challenge grant to help complete the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Phase 1 of the Dr. Phillips Center is well under construction and will open in the fall of 2014, but Phase 2, which includes the acoustical hall where our local performers, the Orlando Philharmonic and the Orlando Ballet will perform, has been postponed due to lack of funding. The Dr. Phillips Charities, a major donor to the Center has also offered a $10M challenge grant in addition to its previous gift of $25M. If the Board of County Commissioners supports the challenge grant, hopefully the Center will be able to raise the additional philanthropy necessary to complete Phase 2. To learn more about the Dr. Phillips Center, click here, and to watch a simulated "fly through" video tour of the new Center, click here.


In addition, I also proposed that the Tourism Development Council support additional marketing and advertising funding for Visit Orlando and the Central Florida Sports Commission (to help create a full roster of events for the new multi-use stadium, especially during the non-peak tourism season).


Each of these projects makes fiscal and strategic sense. Each will propel diversified streams of visitors, and each will add to our reputation as an international mecca of diversity, sports, culture and entertainment. Yet, the greatest value of having another local major league team to cheer for and a completed world-class performing arts center is the benefit they bring to our local citizens by expanding the entertainment and cultural opportunities for all of us that call Central Florida home.   


Next Steps

The next steps in the process will be to draft the agreements with the City of Orlando and Orlando City Soccer. On Monday, August 26th the Orlando City Council will hold a workshop on the venue proposals. At a later date, the final agreements will come before the Orlando City Council and the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for a public hearing and vote. All of the meetings will be publicly advertised.

Closing Thoughts

As a charter county government, Orange County has unique responsibilities. We're home to well over a million residents, and we welcome more than 57 million visitors annually. It has taken decades of planning and plain old hard work to create our economy, our quality of life and the amenities that differentiate us from the rest of the world. And in part, TDT funds have helped us create this incredible place we call home.

But even within the narrow scope of defined TDT uses, it is important to me that we adhere to a firm set of guiding principles. No matter the source, whether we're talking property taxes, sales tax, gas taxes, or TDT - our obligation is the same:

1. We must provide for the greater good, and create a level playing field that welcomes diversity and open participation.

2. We must create an environment that attracts and creates the types of jobs, businesses and workforce that provides opportunities for everyone who lives here and for the next generation of creative, innovative, quality-driven leaders and citizens.

3. We must focus on creating an infrastructure that will bring to life the vision of Central Florida as an international mecca of commerce, culture and recreation.

4. We must invest in our number one asset - our citizens - by creating a sustainable economy, environment and quality of life, in which hopes are nourished and dreams have the chance to come true.

Without question, a thriving culture of performing arts, sports, recreation and commerce are vital to this vision.

But how we get there matters. How we protect and spend tax-payer dollars matters. How we balance the public good and private interests matters. Above all, creating and preserving a strong level of public trust matters. We need to be clear and transparent about why we are taking specific actions - or not.

In that spirit of building and strengthening public trust, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. And I look forward to the work ahead, and to creating the best community in which to live, work and raise a family.

Teresa Jacobs
Orange County Mayor