From Phil Rawlins, President and Founder of Orlando City Soccer Club (originally posted to Rawlins’ personal Facebook page on April 25, 2015. Updated for Sunday’s attendance):
I have observed from a distance as this latest discussion on the soccer stadium has unfolded. It is clear that the club needs to do a better job of communicating the FACTS about the new stadium, as several people have a based their comments around points that aren't factually correct. Like most scenarios related to multi-layered politics, this is a complex situation that is easier to report in "sensational headlines" than deal with in the details. This is my personal effort to correct and clarify those facts for everyone who cares to understand them.
The FACTS are these:
FACT 1: We all (club and fans) worked very hard over a period of nearly three years to reach agreement on a downtown soccer stadium funding plan that was a balance of private and public funding. A downtown soccer specific stadium was a mandatory requirement by MLS for Orlando to get a Major League franchise. In other words, playing long-term at the Citrus Bowl is not an option.
FACT 2: $40M is being invested in the stadium by the club, even though the stadium will be wholly owned and operated by the City of Orlando.
FACT 3: The club is wholly responsible for any cost overruns on construction. The club is also responsible for the full running costs of the stadium once completed. In other words, it won't cost the taxpayer any monies to operate this multi-sport facility.
FACT 4: We are building in a very efficient manner, only $115M in total, therefore the $30M we seek from the State is a key funding component (nearly 30%) in the overall success of the facility.
FACT 5: Now for the State funding. The State Sales Tax rebate that we applied for is really a "loan." Think of it as a mortgage on a new home. The rebate is paid back to the State through new sales tax generated over the next 15 years. If there is any delta between the "loan" and the sales tax generated, the Club has to pay back the difference. In other words, the $30M is guaranteed by the Club.
FACT 6: The Bill supporting the stadium financing was approved by both the Florida House and the Senate last year, and the monies have already been set aside in the 2014 budget. The Finance Committee should have "rubber-stamped" that decision and appropriated the funds in February of this year. For purely political reason they shirked their responsibility (even though the monies are already set aside for this purpose) and sent the decision back to the House and Senate. The soccer stadium "funding" has become a political football for Tallahassee to fight over!
FACT 7: According to the process established in last year's Bill, all new stadium projects have to be ranked by the State in order of their ability to generate new sales tax dollars. The Orlando soccer stadium was ranked #1 through this process.
FACT 8: In our first four home MLS games, OCSC has drawn attendances in aggregate of 157,300. These soccer fans have come from 47 different States and 27 different Countries, including over 10,000 people who came to the inaugural game from outside of Florida. OCSC has broken the MLS record for drawing the most fans by a new Club through four home games, and for average attendance (39,300) in first four home games. In other words, OCSC and the new stadium is a proven economic engine for the whole Central Florida community.
Whichever way you look at these facts, the truth is that Central Florida has never had a better stadium deal, and the opportunity to generate millions of incremental dollars for this community and establish Orlando as one of the biggest "soccer centers" in the country is now being risked in a game of politics!
I encourage all our 14,000 season ticket holders to contact their local State representative and let them clearly know that you support the building of the stadium and the economic benefits it will undoubtedly generate.
Founder and President
Orlando City Soccer Club