The Mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, signed a bill that will see Orlando constructing an $85 million soccer stadium. Just in June, he had to dip into reserve funds to balance the city’s budget and cover a $12 million budgetary shortfall. He claimed that the “belt had been tightened to the very last hole” and that the city was reducing the size of the workforce in order to make ends meet. Of course, he may have been lying, since he tried to give himself a 21% raise just weeks later.
Sports venues cost taxpayers far more than they ever bring in to taxpayers. In Orlando’s case, the city has a tax base of 238,000 people, meaning that an $85 million venue will cost $350 per resident. It is difficult to see how this venue bringing in a soccer team will bring in that amount of additional revenue. Why can’t the team play in the largely unused Citrus bowl?
The Amway arena opened in 1989, after costing $110 million to build. It was open for 21 years, and was demolished in 2011. Why didn’t they just refurbish it? Since it was open for 21 years, the cost to taxpayers was over $5 million for every year it was open, and that didn’t include operating costs.
The Amway Arena was replaced in 2010 by the Amway Center, at a cost of half a billion dollars. The bonds for that project have been downgraded to ‘junk’ status. The reason that this place was rebuilt was because Rich Devos, the owner of both Amway and the Orlando Magic, wanted to have a venue with a higher number of lucrative executive suites. When taxpayers originally refused to fund the project in 2001, he retaliated by shutting down IHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, leaving the city without a hockey team. This was a clear message to the taxpayers of the city: Pay up, or else.
Several other teams were attempted in the area, but they failed.
Once the Arena was replaced by the new venue that Devos wanted, the Orlando Solar Bears were reincarnated as an ECHL team, and Devos allowed hockey to return to Orlando.
Do we really want yet another rich guy pulling the strings in Orlando at taxpayer expense?