So, yesterday the Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved of the soccer-specific stadium downtown, the final puzzle piece to bring Orlando City to Major League Soccer.
First, we have the final negotiations for the actual expansion franchise. The team will meet with the head honchos in quick order to finalize plans and set the expansion fee (expected to be around $70 million).
It is important to note that the stadium agreement is contingent on us getting the MLS team. It’s unlikely it will turn out badly, but if it does and we are not awarded a team, the stadium agreement would be null and void. The county would be out nothing. The city would have a giant parcel of open land which they can do whatever they want with.
When the agreement is reached, I would expect it to be announced in conjunction with the MLS Cup, likely in the week leading up to it. Many previous expansion announcements were made during commissioner Don Garber’s “State of the League” address.
It is still unknown when we will start. Phil Rawlins wants us to start in MLS for the 2015 season, and I think such a start is plausible. But MLS may not want us to steal New York City FC’s thunder, and result in another season with an odd number of teams.
So a 2016 start is also possible, which would likely open the door for a 22nd team to join with Orlando City. There is chatter heating up for both Atlanta and Miami. Miami, of course, has David Beckham’s expansion fee discount, which expires at the end of 2013. So if they are going to happen, it needs to happen now. Atlanta has Home Depot founder and Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose plans for their recently-announced NFL retractible-roof stadium include a retractible awning around the lower bowl to make it more intimate for soccer.
The stadium plan will likely be announced soon. I’m unsure of a timetable, but I would expect it to be some time after the MLS expansion announcement, if not in conjunction with it. Construction would likely begin as soon as the last two parcels are seized by eminent domain. These last two parcels, which are blighted, have out-of-state owners who have not responded at all to the City of Orlando’s requests to sell.
If we have a 2015 start date, the stadium will not be ready for the beginning of the season in March. The first few home games, therefore, would be hosted at the Citrus Bowl. I would expect the opener to come close to selling the whole thing out. Lower attendance afterward is to be expected, but will likely be higher than a sellout crowd at the new stadium. Judging by how Montreal Impact launched last year, it will likely still sell out the lower bowl, however large it is after the renovations next year.
(It should be noted we are still waiting to find out where Orlando City will be playing in 2014.)
If we have a 2016 start date, then the USL version of Orlando City will have its swan song in the Citrus Bowl.
It will be interesting seeing this whole deal play out. A fun offseason, indeed.
UCF is pushing hard to sell tickets to their home game on Saturday at noon, hosting UConn. They predict a sellout, but there are still seats available.
There’s only a spattering of sideline seats available on both sides. The large chunks of available seats are in the north end, opposite the students. Especially the NE corner, where they just released the away allotment reserved for UConn fans to general sale.
The U.S. women’s national team match against Brazil on November 10 at the Citrus Bowl is selling briskly.
In the South End, only the front row seats are available at the insane $99 price. I almost think they did that on purpose to give The American Outlaws space for capos. More than half of the seats in the first 10 rows of sections 218-221 are sold, with the 218 allotment nearly sold out. I expect more seats in those sections to open soon.
On the televised side, the less-expensive seats are almost sold out, though not many people have bitten on the $27 north corner seats. There’s not many seats in the $50 midfield section either. The less-expensive seats on the non-televised sidelines are almost gone, too.
Sales are looking good. I would expect more 200 sections to open for walk-ups. This is going to look good, and likely prove how good soccer will be in Orlando (as if we needed more proof).