Soccer Stalling? Commissioners Weighing In Through Memos

Despite Mayor Jacobs holding hands with Mayor Dyer in a ceremony that didn’t quite make sense, soccer appears to be stalling at the county level. Orange County Commissioners are weighing in through memos on the controversial corporate welfare project which would provide more tourist tax dollars for a soccer stadium. As Mayor Schiefferdecker correctly stated at the Tourist Development Council, this proposal is lacking information and data and has been rushed through without enough time to properly vet the proposal. Now Commissioners are indicating this process is just getting started.

Commissioner Pete Clarke wrote a great memo that makes a lot of sense – of course, the soccer team will never go for it. Clarke uses the Orlando Magic example to show how Orange County loses in these corporate welfare proposals, explaining that Orange County has contributed in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars and still only has 5 community gyms to show for the contribution, despite the Magic increasing their value by $437.5 million. He is calling for some preconditions that would protect the taxpayer and the County long-term:

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Commissioner Jennifer Thompson also weighed in with something she raised during the stadium presentation to the BCC. Her memo mentioned concern over the lack of availability of public fields for the general public and the demand to use public fields may only increase should MLS come to town. She wrote urging the County to negotiate an additional $1.5 million contribution from the Orlando City Soccer to be placed into the Orange County Parks and Recreation Impact Fee Fund to be used to build future recreational fields. “I believe that these additional funds should be deposited within three years of opening the proposed stadium.”

Commissioner Ted Edwards wrote one memo expressing his concern over Davis-Bacon wage rates on venue construction and improvement, and the high costs of this project. But he also issued a second memo asking Mayor Jacobs for an analysis of funding mechanisms used to pay for other Major League Soccer stadiums. From the memo:

“According to my staff’s limited research, many MLS teams, including Houston, New York, and DC have paid all stadium construction costs with private funds…The local government authorities have contributed land and infrastructure. I believe the Board of County Commissioners and public should fully understand the contribution by other owners for MLS stadiums before making a decision on your proposal set forth in your memorandum dated the eve before the meeting of the Tourist Development Council.”

Edwards continues his concerns and seems to directly counter a claim made by Mayor Jacobs regarding the share of funding by the team, “I would also request information to whether other stadiums have been phased or the full financing package was in place for the proposed stadiums to be constructed. One of my concerns would be a phased project based upon anticipated state funding which may not occur, and if it does occur, would decrease the percentage of private funding.”

The only thing that is clear: this is not a done deal.

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