By MIKE GRAMAJO
ORLANDO, Fla. — For the first time in 12 years, Major League Soccer looks to be on its way back to Florida.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday evening, 5-2, to grant the Orlando City Soccer Club $20 million of the remaining Tourism Development Tax (TDT), which will bring a downtown soccer stadium with a purpose of luring an MLS expansion team.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Major League Soccer to be in the Southeast and in Florida,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins told SBI. “We will make MLS a big success in Florida, I’m very sure of that.
“If you look at the public support, we had very little skepticism. We had well over 100 people lined up to speak to show support. We have the support of the tourist community, the support of the city, and now the county.”
With Orlando City receiving a total of $35 million in TDT ($15 million which has been given from City of Orlando leaders), Rawlins did mention that the team will go into final negotiations with Major League Soccer when he meets with league commissioner Don Garber and league president Mark Abbott later this week.
The Tourism Development Tax, which is also known as the TDT, can only be used for venues and comes from hotel and tourist tax.
“I expect we get an expansion announcement by the end of this year, sooner if possible if not before Thanksgiving” added Rawlins.
Despite setbacks earlier this year, the Lions along with help from City and County leaders will pay a total of $150 million, which includes the $70 million expansion fee that will come directly from the club. Among that, $80 million will be used to fund the downtown soccer stadium, located in the Parramore neighborhood in Downtown Orlando.
“The time for soccer has come to America. The time has come to make history,” said Rawlins during his address to Orange County leaders. “This is the fulfillment of a dream, this is a city where dreams come true.”
What do you think of this news? Did you expect the vote to pass? Looking forward to MLS’ return to Florida?
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