Central Florida soccer fans got some great news yesterday as the Orange County commissioners approved $20 million in tourism taxes to be used toward the funding of an $84 million downtown Orlando Major League Soccer stadium, clearing the last hurdle for the city to be the home of the league’s next expansion franchise.
MLS president Mark Abbott said in a statement after the vote that the league looks forward to working with the Orlando ownership group to finalize the agreement to bring a franchise to the central Florida city.
The Orange County Commission’s vote was 5-2 Tuesday night. It came after a six-hour meeting that included comments from more than 100 members of the community speaking mostly in support.
Earlier this month, city officials voted unanimously on the same funding plan to help the minor league USL Pro League Orlando City Soccer Club build the 18,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium. The team will contribute the rest of the funding for construction.
Following the vote, dozens of purple-clad Orlando City fans in the standing-room only commission chamber erupted in applause and began chanting “We are going MLS! We are going MLS”
Orlando City has been lobbying to become a MLS expansion team for more than three years, but currently plays in the outdated Florida Citrus Bowl.
Now that the city and county have approved, Orlando City Soccer owner Phil Rawlins said that an official agreement with MLS could be completed within weeks. Once that’s in place, construction would be next with an opening date of 2015 planned.