Behind the power of a brilliant PR Rush by the Orlando City Soccer Club over the last 6 months, the discussion for a new Soccer stadium in Orlando has gone from a distant concept, to a strong possibility.
Recently, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has been more verbal in his support for a brand new venue that would seat 18 to 20 thousand fans, and put Orlando in play for the possibility of moving up into the MLS or Major League Soccer.
This morning, Dyer penned an guest Column explaining the conditions and benefits or a Soccer only stadium in the City Beautiful. You can read the Orlando Sentinel article here.
It is a guest column, but not all of the Mayor’s facts exactly check out. Let’s break it down.
“In the past decade, Major League Soccer has quickly surpassed other professional sports in popularity. It now boasts higher attendance per game than the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.”
FALSE: The NBA has an entire network dedicated to coverage. You can walk into a public school and spot dozens of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, or Kevin durant jerseys and other merchandise. His attendance claim is a little closer but still wrong. The NBA has almost twice as many clubs and if you take the top 19 (the amount of teams in MLS) their average is still higher. The NHL has been on strike until recently, so it’s easy to slam their attendance.
“Major League Soccer has achieved its success by playing in 18,000- to 20,000-seat urban soccer stadiums. With the league growing, it is requiring that expansion cities have a soccer-ready stadium with a roof over the fans.”
IFFY: Most MLS stadiums don’t have roofs and the Orlando City Soccer club averaged only 7,000 fans last year. If you doubled that number, you’d still have a lot of empty seats.
“After considering whether the Citrus Bowl could be renovated to meet league standards and requirements, the architectural firm working on upgrading the stadium determined it was not physically feasible and would ultimately cost as much or more than building a new stadium specifically for soccer.”
Business: Would you rather have a contract to renovate an old venue or build a whole new one?
“Take for example, in 2009, when TAM airlines added a direct flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Orlando; the Mall at Millenia and the Prime Outlet Malls saw double-digit increases in sales. This means more jobs for our residents and generates sales-tax revenues that have benefits across the state.”
IFFY: It’s true that Brazil has played a bigger role in investing in the community, but expecting Tourists to take in a football game on vacation with more family friendly attractions like Disney, Universal, and the Beaches is a far reach. Crediting a new flight from South America for an increase in sales for the always popular outlets, is also bending too close to a break.
“recently more than 20,000 traveled to a game across the world in Japan”
What game?: Seriously, I can assure you they didn’t travel across the world to Watch Columbus play Real Salt Lake.
“Orlando City Soccer also has plans to add a marquee Brazilian player to the team’s roster.”
“Considering the quality of life and economic benefits that Major League Soccer would add in Orlando, I think you have to ask yourself, can Orlando afford not to pursue a franchise?”
NO: No, we actually cannot afford to pursue a franchise. We had to stretch just, to get the Citrus Bowl renovations. We’ve still got unfinished DPAC and Sunrail projects.
Bottom Line: Listen, I’m a soccer fan and would probably take in a game or two over an MLS season but, this is a weak argument. I’m concerned that we’re going to spend $110 million dollars (or more) on a venue that is going to be empty. The hunger for an MLS franchise in Orlando isn’t here, and if we’re depending on tourists to fill our stadium instead of residents, then we’re taking an even bigger risk.
Really? It’s probably going to get built. But, there should be cause for concern for those wary of a financial risk like this one.
Want to eliminate this concern? Then we need a stronger argument than the one written in this column.