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If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention: What Orlando could learn from St. Petersburg’s war over The Lens

August 26, 2013
By

Tomorrow, St. Petersburg will have a mayoral election. But that’s not the ballot’s main event. Rather, that’s a referendum from a group called Stop The Lens, whose signs you see literally everywhere in the city—on business windows, front yards, everywhere.

The Lens refers to the overhaul of the city’s landmark pier. The current version, a quite-dated upside-down pyramid, was shuttered a few months back to make way for the construction of a new pier, dubbed “The Lens” on account of its postmodern design. Truth be told, I kinda dig it. But a lot of people—a lot of people—don’t. In fact, Stop The Lens seems poised to, well, stop The Lens. A poll out last week found that 56 percent of voters were likely to vote against it, and only 34 percent were in favor. The electorate’s dislike of the new pier’s design may also take down the city’s mayor.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t a fight over public spending or corruption or anything nasty or sordid. It’s a battle—an entrenched, vituperative battle—over architecture. Architecture!

Contrast that to Orlando City Hall this morning, where we had yet another round of glad-handing and civic boosterism dressed up as a city council workshop. The performing arts center folks talked about how close they are to finishing this magnificent structure, just $25 million more, please. The Citrus Bowl backers promised the sun and the stars—NFL games! NCAA championships!—if only we’d add $12 million to their coffers. And then there was Orlando City Soccer, brandishing its $1.2 billion in economic impact and an MLS franchise if only taxpayers helped them build a spanking-new stadium.

This $95 million in proposed tourist taxes comes atop another $20 million from the city and potentially $30 million more from the state for the soccer stadium, as well as the $1.2 billion (plus interest!) the city spent on the downtown venues just six years ago.

And yet, there’s no outrage, no movement for change (excepting perhaps a small cadre of gadflies who are better at getting a quote in the paper than affecting public policy). Nor is there any sense of critical thinking. At this morning’s hearing, not one commissioner questioned the fundamental wisdom of having taxpayers subsidize professional sports facilities (of course, that horse left the barn the day the Amway Center opened) or blinked an eye at Orlando City’s economic impact assertions, even though economists are nigh-unanimous in thinking such studies—commissioned by the team, for the team—are hogwash. These studies, conducted all over the country by teams lining up at the public trough, tend to be, shall we say, overly optimistic. As Victor Matheson, an economist who has studied public funding of stadiums for decades now, recently told The Atlantic:

Take whatever number the sports promoter says, take it and move the decimal one place to the left. Divide it by ten, and that’s a pretty good estimate of the actual economic impact.

To be more specific, 85 percent of economists oppose taxpayer-subsidized stadiums. That, my soccer-loving friends, is a consensus, and it’s backed up by (most ofthe economics literature. You don’t have to like the facts, but they are facts nonetheless.

There are of course plenty of non-economic reasons to support Orlando City’s stadium. The team has generated a crush of enthusiasm in just a few years, and its contribution to the venue—$30 million cash, another $10 million from a ticket surcharge—towers over that of Rich Devos for the Golden Pleasure Dome™, at least in terms of proportionality. The owners, though they haven’t deep roots here, have invested in this community in the form of youth sports and the like, all of which is fine and good and admirable, even if a cynic could note that they have a vested interest in winning us over.

But we need to, at the very least, be realistic about what we’re buying. There be some qualitative benefits, but not economic development.

Just for once, I’d love to see at least a little pushback, a little passion for something other than giving millionaires tax dollars with which to enrich themselves further. I’d love to see the city or county or anyone ask an actual economist what actual economists think about these projects. (Mark Soskin at UCF would be a good place to start.) I’d love to see the city’s media (especially on TV) do something more than parrot the team and mayor’s talking points. I’d love to see this town get actually pissed off about the fact that our glut of tourist tax money can go to hundred-million-dollar venue after hundred-million-dollar venue while our schools are substandard, our city is quantifiably dangerous, and our public transit system is a mess.

I’d love to see us be half as enraged about that as St. Petersburg is about its pier. I’d love to see something other than apathy.

The only person crying out in the wilderness is newbie Orange County Commission Pete Clarke. Last Monday, he sent out a memo asking that, in exchange for its largesse, the county get a stake in Orlando City: if the team does well, the county will do well, like any other investor. Everyone wins. As he noted:

Over the course of 23 years, the Magic have increased in value by $437.5 million, Orange County has contributed in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars and still [has] only 5 gyms to show for our contributions. If the Magic were sold, in the near future, Orange County would not have anything more to show for our contributions.

Deadspin, the Gawker-run sports site, called it “the best idea for stadium financing we’ve ever heard.” As writer Barry Petchesky puts it:

Under Clarke’s plan it would be, as Neil DeMause says, “an investment, not a gift.” It’s just so…logical. And it’ll never happen. Teams almost invariably get their stadiums without making concessions. Just look at the fawning from Orlando-area politicians when the preliminary deal was announced last week—you’ve never seen a group of people happier about agreeing to spend $55 million in public funds.

On his blog, Field of Schemes, DeMause elaborates on his statement:

As I’ve always said, the problem with the current stadium business isn’t that the public is putting up money, it’s that the public is putting up money without getting anything back. If Orlando could get an actual share of the stadium revenues—and it’d have to be gross revenues, mind you, not net profits, since it’s too easy for clubs to cook the books with the latter—then this could actually be an investment, and not just a gift.

No one on the city council, however, deigned mention Clarke’s proposal this morning. Why would they? Certainly no one, save Phil Diamond, the former commissioner who lost last year’s mayoral race, offered even the slightest protest when the city built a downtown basketball arena—even though the polling for the arena was godawful; 69 percent of Orange County residents thought the Magic weren’t contributing enough, and a 48 percent plurality didn’t want the damned arena at all—nor has anyone said boo as the city considers even more giveaways to the Magic.

This one’s on us, Orlando. Our politicians don’t give a shit because we don’t give a shit. If St. Pete voters can burn down the proposed pier and dance on its grave, surely we can demand some reasonably eminent concession in exchange for our tax dollars.

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  • Jennables

    Are you nuts? Where do you get that it’s coming coming from taxpayer $$$???!!! Publish facts rather than spew incorrect trash. It’s tourist tax $ not taxpayer $…nice try at trying to irritate those who aren’t educated enough on the facts about the Orlando City stadium!

  • https://www.facebook.com/james.billingsworth.9?ref=tn_tnmn James Billingsworth

    Wow this is way off base. This BS about little economic impact is annoying. Here I can prove it. I don’t live near downtown. I don’t frequent downtown except for Magic games and the occasional birthday. Sooo my money goes elsewhere unless there is a Magic game and they way they have that arena set up makes me come early and stay late spending my money eating a pregame meal at local places and drinking post game drinks at local places instead of scurrying off to my home. Im sure the bartender who I tip appreciates game nights. WTF is the problem with spending money from other people on things we all can enjoy? Not everyone sends their kids to crappy schools and has high crime rate. Throwing money at those problems never works. Parents who are involved tend to help kids with education and that leads to lower crime. There is a reason that there are not roving gangs in Windermere or around Rollins College in Winter Park, its because the culture is different and that starts with the family. Even Oveido and Waterford Lakes areas have a much lower crime rate and they aren’t all country clubs and BMWs. The money they are asking for is from TOURISTS and for things that increase TOURISM…not to buy books some delinquent won’t bother to read. People will legitimately travel here from all over to attend soccer games in the new soccer stadium, bowl games in the renovated Citrus Bowl and watch plays at the Dr. Phillips center.

    Someone could stay at home and not spend their money or they could go to these venues and pay for tickets and buy concessions which someone sells them and in turn that person makes money for their time selling tickets and concessions…this is how the world works. If you think it makes little difference, go talk to the people who live around the Citrus Bowl what it was like after UCF left for their own stadium…ask them if it economically impacted them to not have gamedays.

  • KTA

    That ship has already sailed, Jeff. You can’t even call it a new normal now because the city/county has shown time and again — and again, and again, and again — that they care infinitely more about people who visit the area for days and weeks at a time (and the money men who make a killing off them), than they do for the millions of people who actually live here. That sort of apathy and disdain for the residents, in turn, convinces us to believe that we don’t really deserve any better, which makes it easier for the politicians here to run roughshod over everyone in town.

    This is one of the main reasons why I don’t see myself staying in Orlando much longer: there’s next to no civic engagement and action here. You look at places like Chicago and Seattle, and folks there actually take pride in their city, and actively attempt to enact meaningful changes in the places they call home. Whereas in Orlando, on the rare occasions when people here are roused up, it’s for the purpose of defending the status quo regarding how our city/county is run. See those two posts before mine? That’s the kind of stuff we have to deal with here.

    Even if we were to try and foster an organized opposition against these boondoggles, or even for changes to how our tourist tax dollars are spent, the tide is so much stronger on the status quo’s side that any sort of dissent would be, in the words of Sherman Alexie, little more than “pitiful cries to a disinterested god.”

  • Sick of lies against Soccer

    Every article I’ve read that damns the Soccer stadium incorrectly makes it seem like the people’s money, and skips the fact it’s tourists revenue. Thanks for pointing this blatant mis-representation of the facts.

  • Sick of lies against Soccer

    Yet another article damning the soccer stadium using lies. Get your facts straight, Jeff. You’re starting to sound like a politician with your skewed “facts”.
    Let us not forget Soccer is the #1 sport played around the world. But you keep forgetting that fact.

  • Sick of lies against Soccer

    What a shocker. Another article by Jeff with mis-leading info in hopes to rally disdain against the soccer stadium. I love the way Jeff starts writting about St Pete and a pier, so you think “Alright something other than a bash against soccer.” and then it turns in to an anti-soccer battle cry.
    You are boring Jeff. Stop leaving out information, as mentioned below. Your wreckless style of “journalism” is wasting my time.

  • Carla Mott

    Jeff, why are you not attacking the Performing Arts Center or Convention Center so vehemently? It seems to me when you boo-hoo the $95,000 spending your only focus is to damn the OCSC Lions.

  • Carla Mott

    My apologies for my typo. $95,000,000, was what was meant.

  • Susanna

    I am a tourist who will come see the Lions. I recently came to a match at the Citrus Bowl. It’s a horrible mess. I felt so unsafe in my seats because of the massive amounts of rust and HOLES, that I will not return to a game there. I’m glad my tourist dollars I spend by booking a hotel and so forth, will be spent on a new stadium. I will drive the 4 hours to attend EVERY home game.

  • Sick of lies about Stadiums

    “To be more specific, 85 percent of economists oppose taxpayer-subsidized stadiums. That, my soccer-loving friends, is a consensus, and it’s backed up by (most of) the economics literature. You don’t have to like the facts, but they are facts nonetheless.”

    City fans, that bump on your forehead came from Jeff dropping the mic on all of you.

  • Jack Hollings

    I have to agree with Carla Mott on her question to Jeffrey. I would like to know what is Jeffrey’s true motivation behind his dislike of a new stadium being built.

    Mr. Billman, I ask you, have you been to the Citrus Bowl of late? The stadium is a stain to the reputation of the team playing there and a hindrance to the team becoming major league.

    You ask of us, why aren’t we outraged? Well is it not obvious to you, Jeffrey? There are more people out there the correct facts (of which you lack), but also {gasp} actually support the soccer stadium and the use of tourist tax dollars to go towards creating a new stadium. Attendance records are consistently out doing themselves and this is before the team is MLS. In 2012 in Jacksonville, Fl the US men’s soccer team pulled in 44,428 spectators. You can’t honestly tell me that using tourist tax dollars to help the Lions become major league won’t be a profitable turn around for Orlando. There are a hell of a lot of soccer fans that would flood Orlando to see Donovan or Dempsey grace our fields during a MLS game and the USMNT matches. If you don’t think so, ask one of the 44,428 people that showed up in Jax. I’m sure they ate food at local restaurants and checked in to local hotels, just as I did. Speaking of Jax; Fullham, a team from England, will soon be coming to America to play some good footy. Rumor has it, they will be sparing off in Jacksonville. In the future as more Premier English Teams make the journey across the pond, you bet your ass they will look at Orlando to play, but only if we had a stadium. You need to take off your America glasses and look at this from a world view perspective.

    My real concern in the waste of money going towards the convention center. Why aren’t you reporting on that?

    I can agree with you on one thing; the law needs to change. It needs to include a percentage of tourist dollars to be allotted towards police & fire.

    Your insistent use of misleading information and lack of using full information, to confuse readers in to believing that the world’s most popular sport will not bring tourist dollars to Orlando is poor journalism.

  • Jeffrey Billman

    I have gone after the black hole known as the convention center (see the cover story from two weeks ago called “Hands Off” that focuses on how tourism taxes are raised and spent). And what I’m telling you is, if soccer brings in significant tourism revenue, it will be basically the first time this has happened anywhere.)

  • Jeffrey Billman

    I have gone after the black hole known as the convention center (see the cover story from two weeks ago called “Hands Off” that focuses on how tourism taxes are raised and spent). As for the PAC, Billy Manes has written a number of pieces over the years—I don’t want to duplicate his work—and it has been mismanaged and mangled every which way. But the PAC was sold for what it is (an amenity), not what it isn’t (an economic asset). The literature on sports stadiums—and I wrote a lot about the Amway Center six years ago—is so clear and convincing, and yet goes utterly unheeded.

  • Robert Neff

    Hey Orlando Weekly: Wrong! The Lens was not about architecture. It was about how the California architect gave us no air conditioning or enclosed space for protection from the storms; there was no sustainable tourism, special interest and Council and the Mayor had their fingers in the process; there was no heavy quantitative marketing research that identified the user personas and their wants and needs; the City Council voted to not allow a vote after we had been told we were to have one – we were disenfranchised; the plan deviated from the original New Pier Task Fore requirements; the city council didn’t have a solid risk management plan in place to assess and mitigate negative public sentiment! The City had 64 public meetings and were not answering the public questions. They did listen to us except at the end and added a gelato shop…we screamed more and they added a cafe! This was a failure of leadership and the process was hijacked…next time have competent process and qualified people on board!

  • Jack Hollings

    Are saying Jeff got more “facts” wrongs?

  • Jack Hollings

    Thank you for sharing that. I will take a look.

  • KTA

    The problem with bringing up the Jacksonville friendly, which I also attended, as a reference point is that it was basically a one-off event… which is what any international friendly or MLS All-Star game at this new downtown stadium (or the Citrus Bowl, for that matter) would be.

    I can kinda sorta see the rationale behind putting tax dollars into the stadium, in the name of tourism, if those events took place in Orlando every year. However, it’s more likely that we’ll have to wait our turn for years and years, like every other city that has built a soccer-specific stadium, mostly on the taxpayers’ dime. That would leave us with a facility sitting empty most of the year, save for MLS matches, which bring a comparative pittance in terms of tourist revenue; I highly doubt that the “away day” culture will take ever hold in the US, in the way it has in Europe for years.

  • KTA

    Jeffrey,

    You do have to get a chuckle out of Orlando City fans believing so strongly that they’re more informed about the pros and cons of building taxpayer-funded sports venues than those who have reported on the topic for years, let alone economists who have researched and analyzed the subject for decades.

  • Jeffrey Billman

    But it is nonetheless fundamentally about the piers design, correct? The process complaints are no doubt legitimate, but at its core this is still a design issue.

  • Jeffrey Billman

    Name a lie please.

  • Jack Hollings

    So are you a traitor or a liar?

  • Jack Hollings

    I have reviewed your other articles. I found it odd, you only supplied me with one against the Convention Center, which seems to be the largest waste of any tax money, all the while seeing so many articles against the proposed stadium.

    I would like to get one thing solved, let me get this straight; you are pissed that the money raised by taxes on tourists that is clearly lawful to be used to build a stadium, is being used to build a stadium?

    Sounds more to me that you just have a vendetta against soccer.

    Were you at any of the public meetings voicing your opposition?

    What are you doing to change the current law (I agree needs minor changes)?

    To aggressively attack a new stadium that is being funded using funds that are collected to lawfully do exactly what they are doing, seems shady. Were you beat up by soccer players as a kid? What’s your beef dude?

  • Sick of lies about Stadiums

    Resorting to ad hominem attacks as a cover for not actually being able to disprove his assertions? What a surprise.

  • KTA

    So being skeptical about my city’s plan to build a publicly funded stadium which will ostensibly benefit the team’s owners makes me a traitor and/or a liar? Huh, that’s a strange one. Were you saying the same things when the Magic were begging for a handout for their own venue, as well?

  • Jeffrey Billman

    I wrote much, much more about the Amway Center and Citrus Bowl projects back in the day. I don’t have a vendetta toward soccer or Orlando City; I object to the use of public money to enrich private companies, and to the assertions that stadiums produce economic benefits when they so clearly don’t. Just because something is lawful doesn’t mean it’s good public policy. As for the convention center, well … this project’s new, and that’s been around forever, which is why it’s getting more attention.

  • Jack Hollings

    You never answered my questions:

    1. Were you at the public meetings voicing your opposition?

    2. What are you doing to change the current law?

  • Jack Hollings

    You either lied about going to Jax or are a traitor for being such a dick about our stadium; all the while you have no problems using other stadiums. Who do you think pays for stadiums?

    I fee the Lions’ owners are being more than generous for a stadium that they will not even own.

    But I guess you want your cake and to eat it too.

    Funny how jerks like you bitch and complain, but then don’t mind using the services they bitched and complained about. Ahh the hypocrisy. See you at a game then!

  • Jack Hollings

    Oh and that Jax stadium, you supposedly enjoyed, cost the tax payers $60 million to refurb.

  • KTA

    Being a “traitor” would imply that I’m an Orlando City supporter, which I’m not (and in all honesty, probably will never be, regardless of whether they’re or not promoted to the MLS).

    You also made it sound like I went to the Jax friendly to enjoy the stadium, which is laughable — you’re not gonna believe this, but there was a soccer match being played there that day, too.

    City will not “own” the stadium in the same sense that the Magic don’t own the Amway Center, another boondoggle — they’ll have to pay to use their venue, but they’ll get a sweetheart lease from the city, and probably the first dibs on any non-soccer events that will be held there. This quote-on-quote generous contribution that they’re making? They’ll recoup that money far before in revenues way before the city and county will.

    Again, let me ask you: Being skeptical about my city’s plan to build a publicly funded stadium which will ostensibly benefit the team’s owners makes me a traitor and/or a liar?

  • Xander Rich

    Was very happy to not see you OR Orlando Weekly at the tailgate. Just can’t give it up, huh….

  • glowworm

    Thank you for this article. I support the creation of a soccer stadium but I don’t support the idea that it, the Citrus Bowl, Amway Center, etc are economic drivers. Sure, they generate some income but relative to their expense it’s not a cash cow. The reason to support the OCSC is because they are good for the city in a lot of intangible ways, not because they are going to be some powerhouse economic engine. I support the arts center for the same reason (although the implementation of that has been a mess).

    If we get rid of the flim-flam of stadiums-as-magically-profitable-investments-for-public-dollars then we can avoid the crazy, out of balance deal that we gave DeVoss. If the city wants to see the economic impact of something, they shouldn’t rely on the house economists of whoever wants the project to go through for their facts.

  • glowworm

    The economic argument isn’t that a stadium won’t generate any income in the surrounding area–as you point out, your tipping the bartender, etc is adding income to the downtown area. The argument though is that the X amount of money spent on a stadium could have been more profitably spent elsewhere–it’s a how much did we invest compared to how much we get back argument, not a “they don’t do anything at all” argument.

    All of which is irrelevant if you think that the reason to support the soccer stadium is because it would be good for the overall quality of life of the city. Then the economic development is just gravy. I just don’t like it where people make these arguments like it is some sort of established fact that stadiums are giant money makers w/o looking at the opportunity cost of the investment.

  • loop

    blacksuede66#imageid-536151904229722607_268324289

  • loop

    someone needs to report this instagram user

  • Jack Hollings

    I have twice, left info about the tourist industry stats and numbers and you keep erasing it. Afraid of real numbers and stats that might sway people in to supporting the stadium?

  • Susanna

    @Jeff & @KTA- Do either of you two attend public meetings and speak against this spending?
    Do either of you contact those who can make changes to the laws?
    I am honestly wondering. I see that it’s been asked of Jeff, but he doesn’t answer. Maybe KTA will answer. ???

  • Jeffrey Billman

    Jack, I’m not a moderator on the comment boards, but I doubt anyone is erasing your posts. However, the comments server the Weekly uses does not allow people to post URLs (presumably for spam reasons, though I’m not really in on that loop). If you have numbers different than mine, either copy them directly into the text box and try it that way, or email them to me directly (jeffreycbillman (at) gmail (dot) com).

  • Jeffrey Billman

    1) Nope. (See no. 2).

    2) Writing about problems so as to raise awareness.

  • KTA

    1) No, as I’m gainfully employed. That, and I’m not the best public speaker in the world, but I digress.

    2) I’ve written to every commissioner asking them to at least reconsider their stance over the venues deals, and to the use of tourist tax dollars as a whole. I genuinely wonder if any of them actually take the time to read them, though. The best I can do at this rate, as Jeff pointed out below, is to raise awareness, in hopes that people here wake up for their years-long slumber over the issue.

  • LionFan

    20,866 fans strong! 7-4 win!
    Are YOU paying attention?

  • Jack Hollings

    My apologies for the redundancy below. After resetting my cache my comment still was not showing by the next day. I re-wrote it in an attempt to have my voice heard. It seems that both of my comments were missing for a few days and them appeared later in the day after you left the comment above.

    If you see the two other posts below; that is what I am referring to. I believe Orlando to be a very unique place. I think that needs to be taken in to consideration. What is your opinion on what I have included below?

    20,866 showed up to last night’s event. I hope that helps put some fears aside. I also hope our numbers stay strong. I would safely bet those 20,000+ fans spent a ton of money in the streets of Orlando last night. I think Orlando just recouped a bit of that $25 million before it has even been spent.

  • https://www.facebook.com/james.billingsworth.9?ref=tn_tnmn James Billingsworth

    I guess I just don’t see the reason for griping about the economic impact since its neutral at worst. I recently walked to the proposed site one afternoon while I was downtown and I can say without a doubt that it would positively impact that immediate area. I can see how in the future that location would attract some more businesses. That nice area kind of trails off after you pass the Amway. Even though the nice new buildings keep going for a block they are pretty much barren. The stadium would at least anchor that area.

    I do believe it would be a big increase into the quality of the city but I also think, especially after witnessing the 20,000 who came to the championship game, that anyone who has the business sense to put some restaurants and bars across the street from the site would make money. The elephant in the room is gentrification and race. To be blunt, its in a crappy run down area and if that whole project is going to work toes will need to be stepped on. You can’t bake a cake without cracking some eggs. The poor people around that area will slowly have to be forced out, which sucks for them but unless they can get their community together and do something about the crack fiends and crime the city will just sweep them aside so people like me can go down there during the day and not feel threatened by the people staring at them. Having guys ride by on bikes and flash gang signs to me and my friends at 4 on a Sunday afternoon while Im standing next to a nice new building looking at the proposed site of the stadium does not bode well for the community. I highly doubt they will ever make Church Street a lovely and safe walk from I4 to the Citrus Bowl but if they can at least build that stadium and push the crime back a block then Orlando will get the vibrant downtown lifestyle we want.

  • https://www.facebook.com/james.billingsworth.9?ref=tn_tnmn James Billingsworth

    Amen, wait for the “Im not against the team, just wasteful spending” canned comeback…I was at that city council meeting he was talking about and the economic impact was not as highly touted as the overall benefits of having a stadium.

    Phil Rawlins made it clear that the stadium would be used for other
    things, not just soccer. There would be about 35-40 soccer events a
    year(around 25 being Orlando City related) the stadium could be used for
    all sorts of sports that don’t draw the levels of college and pro
    football. For instance, FHSAA state football championships could finally
    have that permanent home they have wanted. Lakeland had a proposed
    25-30k seat stadium before the recession and since most of the state
    championships were already in Lakeland and it is central in the state
    they were on the fast track to being the permanent home for that, well
    that fell through and now Orlando will have a cozy 20k seat stadium.
    Also the NCAA is looking for a permanent home for their national soccer
    championship and would love to do it in Orlando with its already
    established hospitality industry and mild winters. Then there are things
    like lacrosse and rugby tournaments who don’t have a huge following but
    whose money is just as green.

    Just for once, I’d love to see at least a little pushback, a little
    passion for something other than giving millionaires tax dollars with
    which
    to enrich themselves further.
    ” The Orlando City owners are
    putting in their own money not only for the stadium but the franchise
    fee for MLS. So they are going to be in the red by well over 100 Million
    before the first ball is kicked in that new stadium. I don’t know the
    financial statistics for MLS teams but I would doubt that they will
    break even before the first decade of that stadium. Unless something
    crazy happens with TV rights (and without the US getting another World
    Cup its doubtful that MLS will explode) its going to be a very long and
    gradual process.

    I think the push back we need is by those who want to have Orlando be something other than a tourist trap for fat people from Wisconsin and having global recognition against those who want to throw this in with other things like a performing arts center or the Miami Dolphins stadium. I have met the owners of the Buccaneers and the Magic as well as other teams. They are the rich and detached owners you never see but Phil Rawlins is another breed. He is out at the tailgates in the rain with the fans bringing players with him before games. He takes the time out to listen to people who have suggestions about how to better enhance the experience. He is a fan first and he saw something in Orlando that only residents of us see. Potential. Whether its UCF with its football team and medical school or Orlando City there is a potential for something great and if 20 million from fat mid-westerners who clog our roads and ask for directions to the Magic Kingdom while lost in Oveido is what they need to help meet that potential then let it be. If there was a real valid reason for not wanting the stadium then I don’t think there would be such passion for it in the first place.

    Saturday night in Orlando there were more people to see a 3rd tier soccer game than 7 of the 8 MLS games and than attend Magic games on average…soccer…Hell, The game on Saturday had more attendance than every single NBA team averages except the Chicago Bulls…a soccer game…If you are in anyway a fan of the city of Orlando that has to impress you and make you smile.

    NBA attendance records

    http://espn.go.Com/nba/attendance

  • https://www.facebook.com/james.billingsworth.9?ref=tn_tnmn James Billingsworth

    Just capitalize the C in .Com and it magically bypasses that…very simple, almost too simple…

  • Jack Hollings

    Seeing as Jeff if an Armchair Activist (see below where he actually says he does not go to the meetings, just writes articles) I give little credence to anything he has to say any more. What a waste of OW space.
    REAL activists do something about what they complain about. They don’t just sit like cowards behind their computer and write articles spotted like Swiss cheese. Holes and fabrications. Half truths.
    When Jeff said he doesn’t actually do anything about it, I lost what little respect I had for him.

  • Jack Hollings

    Armchair Activist. If you are not going to actually do anything about it, you have no right to complain about it.
    “Oh whoa is me. I hate ______. But I’m too lazy to go out and vote or voice my opinions.” {insert bonbon in to mouth and shhhh it}

  • Jeffrey Billman

    I’m a columnist, not an activist. Journalists rarely involve themselves in advocacy campaigns. I as a rule don’t.