Orlando City stadium funding victim of Florida politics

New Orlando City stadium

A political fight in the Florida Legislature could impact in $30 million in sales-tax-rebates for a new Orlando City stadium funding plan, but it’s not clear whether the money is actually essential to building the stadium.

Initial work on the site has begun, and the team and the city are looking toward a 2016 opening while the team plays this season at the Citrus Bowl. The city was seeking to tap into a $225-million fund set up by legislators to subsidize sports facilities that can show job growth or the ability to keep teams in Florida. Most observers assumed this fund would end up being part of the crazy world called Florida politics, and sure enough it is, as legislators work toward a May 1 adjournment date, needing to close a big budget gap while avoiding tax hikes.

And caught in the debate was $30 million for the $115-million Orlando City SC stadium. The original plan for the stadium called for an $85 million budget, and reverting to that figure is a possibility should state aid evaporate. From the Orlando Sentinel:

There is still hope for stadium supporters this session: A Senate panel on Tuesday added a funding provision for the stadium and other sports projects to an economic-development bill, and Dyer said a parallel amendment is expected to be introduced in the House as soon as Thursday…

Lenny Santiago, a spokesman for Orlando City, said the team is “hoping for a successful outcome” and working with partners in the capitol.

“We are getting closer to obtaining the funding for the new Downtown Stadium in the State Legislature,” said Orlando City’s Wednesday email appeal to supporters. “While we are excited with all the progress made so far — we need your help.”

Meanwhile, in the midst of the funding crisis, COO Brett Lashbrook has left Orlando City FC. The team released the following statement:

“Earlier this week, Brett Lashbrook tendered his resignation in order to pursue new opportunities in the industry. His last day with the Club will be Friday, May 1st,” said team owner Phil Rawlins. “Brett leaves Orlando City in great shape as we have over 14,000 season ticket holders with a growing wait list – one of only four clubs in MLS with one. He was instrumental in the growth of our corporate partnerships, and all of our key milestones in our journey to MLS including our inaugural match with over 62,000 fans in the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Brett’s contribution to all these accomplishments has been vast and we wish him nothing but success in his future.

“Effective immediately, CEO Alex Leitao will assume responsibility for ticket sales, corporate sales, marketing, communications and operations for the club. Alex is a very accomplished CEO with over 10 years of leadership experience in the sports industry and over three years of experience on our Board of Directors. We look forward to his contributions in these areas going forward.”

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August Publications