By DAN KARELL
On Monday afternoon, Orlando City Soccer Club moved one step closer to building a soccer stadium that they could call home and probable entry into Major League Soccer.
The City of Orlando board of commissioners voted 7-0 to approve funds that will go towards Orlando City SC building a soccer-specific stadium by 2015, when they hope to be able to enter MLS as an expansion franchise. The final obstacle to pass for the club comes on October 22 when the Orange County Commissioners will vote on the funding plan.
“This is obviously a very big step toward our goal of bringing MLS (to Orland0),” Orlando City SC President Phil Rawlins said in a statement on their website. “I am delighted to have the City behind us so we can now focus on the second vote that is only two weeks away.”
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, the total construction cost of the stadium is estimated at $84 million, with the city chipping in with $20 million and raising another $20 million on tourist taxes. Orlando City SC is expected to spend $30 million on the construction of the stadium as well as make annual payments to the city for the next 25 years.
With the exception of New York City FC, who are set to join MLS in 2015, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has made it clear that in addition to paying the expansion fee, new franchises need to have their own soccer-specific stadiums before they can receive league approval to join. At the MLS All-Star game in July, Garber stated his intentions to expand to 24 teams by the end of the decade, and in early September, had said that three of the four open expansion spots had “already been spoken for,” with many being lead to believe that Orlando is among the three.
Since Rawlins moved the team from Austin to Orlando in 2011, they’ve won two USL Pro titles, including a wild 7-4 playoff final victory against the Charlotte Eagles in front of a record 20,886 people at the Citrus Bowl, where the club plays it’s home games.
After making an agreement with Sporting Kansas City in MLS last winter, the MLS club loaned out a number of players over the season to the club to gain experience, with forward Dom Dwyer scoring an impressive 19 goals in 14 appearances, including four in the final.
What do you think of these developments? Do you see the vote passing on October 22? Think it’s only a matter of time before MLS officially approves the club into the league?
Share your thoughts below.