A potential MLS franchise in Orlando moved one step closer on Monday evening, as bill SB-306 was passed after voting in the Florida senate.
That might not mean much to you and I, but basically it now allows the bill to be voted on in the House of Representatives today or tomorrow.
The crucial bill is one that Orlando City Soccer Club, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and locals have petitioned for in recent months and weeks. It is significant for the future, as the bill hopes to add Major League Soccer sides to the list of professional sports teams that receive funding from the state of Florida for stadium development, upgrades and infrastructure.
So if the bill is voted in, Orlando City can press ahead with their plans for a new $105 million soccer stadium in downtown Orlando, after the city already purchased a sizable chunk of land for the project.
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Is this just a flash in the pan that will fail if bill SB-306 isn’t passed in the next 48 hours?
Not at all, the clubs resolve will remain strong and they’ve been steadfastly aiming for Major League Soccer since the club was relocated to Orlando from Austin in 2010. I remember meeting Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath at the USL Pro combine in Charleston, S.C. back in early 2011. Then he discussed how the ultimate goal was MLS, and that stance hasn’t wavered.
It has grown stronger year after year, month by month and week by week. Club president Phil Rawlins has worked tirelessly to get locals, supporters, politicians and influential business leaders in the Orlando area to get on board with the project to get Orlando City into MLS.
He deserves huge credit. But this next step is massive.
The $100 million fee for MLS expansion, stadium costs and a huge roster upgrade will take considerable funds, but Orlando is on the right track.
Their fan base is growing — with an average of 8, 360 to see their four home games in USL Pro so far — and the potential for growth is vast with the huge tourist influx during the summer months and a metro population of around 2.1 million.
Recent support from MLS has further helped their cause and despite Commissioner Don Garber set to announce an expected 20th league franchise based in New York City in the next month or so, he has spurred Orlando on in their efforts for a new stadium.
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Where does NYC 2 leave Orlando? Still in a very healthy position.
Recently Garber responded to questions about Orlando. “Love what’s happening in Orlando. Hoping to see support in Florida House for stadium support Bill.”
MLS will be happy with the step forward by the state of Florida, but the next 48 hours and a vote in the House of Representatives is set to be the biggest hurdle Orlando City Soccer Club has ever faced.