Before a standing-room crowd of observers, Orange County commissioners were discussing today a sports and arts venues package that could tap into tourist taxes for more than $60 million in public funding.
How does it feel, Orlando?
You are about to be a big-league town ... times two.
You are about to become a Major League Soccer city.
MLS -- Major League SlamDunk!
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs have agreed to a deal that will likely put a new $85 million stadium downtown and bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Orlando.
This is one of the biggest days in Orlando sports history -- not quite as big as when the Magic came to town, but certainly better than when Shaq and Dwight left town.
As I wrote in a column earlier this week, it was time for city and county leaders to seize this rare opportunity to bring another big-time sports franchise to Central Florida. It's not like Orlando was going to get an NFL or Major League Baseball team anytime soon, and MLS is a sport that is undoubtedly trending upward.
If MLS can thrive in cities like Seattle and Kansas City, imagine what it could do in Orlando. We are the biggest TV market in the country that possesses only one major league sports team. We're a melting pot metropolitan area with more than 2 million people. We have a growing segment of our population from Latin America, where soccer is a religion. We also attract tourists from all over the world -- many of whom might like to take in a soccer game while they're on vacation in Central Florida.
If it hasn't already arrived, there will be a day very soon when the MLS surpasses the NHL as the No. 4 team sport in this country. In 10 or 20 years, as America becomes more and more diverse, soccer might even overtake baseball or basketball and move up to No. 3.
You have to give Phil Rawlins, the president of the Orlando City Soccer Club, loads of credit. He believed in Orlando when he moved his team from Austin to Central Florida back in 2011. He put a great product on the field and quickly endeared himself to an avid nucleus of soccer fans. The Orlando City Lions draw about 8,000 fans per game and has sold about 4,000 season tickets. They are one of the premier teams in USL Pro.
Rawlins gave us a kick in the grass and convinced local fans and politicians that Orlando can be a soccer city.
Now, there is a stadium agreement in place to make it happen; to make Orlando a big-league town ... times two.
Give yourself a hand, Central Florida.
Actually, you're about to become a soccer city.
No hands allowed.
Let's relish the thrill of the victory and the ecstasy of da feet.
NOTE TO READERS: We will have Orlando City Soccer Club President Phil Rawlins on our Open Mike radio show Friday morning at 8:45 a.m. to talk about the new stadium deal. You can listen live at AM 740 in Orlando or by clicking here.Email me at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @BianchiWrites. And listen to my Open Mike radio show every Monday-Friday from 6-9 a.m. on 740 The Game.