One obstacle that often hinders professional sports teams is its relationship with local governments. The teams and government officials often have two different, clashing objectives, which causes friction between the two sides. Because of this, it sometimes takes several years to get something done such as building a stadium. In Orlando, that hasn’t been the case, as Orlando City SC and local government officials have had a strong relationship since the club’s inception.
The strained relationship between Major League Soccer teams and local governments has often been an issue. David Beckham has been granted an MLS expansion side in Miami, pending the ability to build a new soccer specific stadium, but those plans have been continually stalled by local politicians.
While Beckham wants a downtown location near the waterfront and with easy public transportation access, the politicians want the stadium next to Marlins Park, in the hope they can lessen the blow of the colossal mistake that baseball stadium has become. Political strife has also caused problems in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. It took D.C. United, one of MLS’s flagship clubs, about 10 years to finally get government support in building a new soccer specific stadium.
Orlando City’s relationship with the city of Orlando’s government has been less of an agreement and more of a partnership. The city, led by Mayor Buddy Dyer, has been attempting to create a downtown sports and entertainment district which would connect the historic Church Street Station with the newly rebuilt Orlando Citrus Bowl. A new MLS soccer specific stadium fits in perfectly with those plans, which has resulted in Mayor Dyer helping Orlando City campaign MLS, county officials, and state officials for the new stadium and an expansion spot in MLS.
While not the same partnership as with the city, the club has had a relatively easy time dealing with county officials as well. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has been supportive of the stadium plan, using tourist development taxes for some time. And while many of the county commissioners were skeptical at first, most came to approve of the idea of MLS in Orlando and the stadium helping the community. This has led to the process of achieving the stadium and MLS expansion being expedited, realizing the goal in an amazing three years -- much less than most other areas.
It’s this strong relationship with government officials which has made the process go so smoothly. Recently, the club presented stadium construction plans for government approval. The approval committee was unhappy with the designs, but, rather than creating strife between the two sides, they explained calmly what their issues were with the designs. The club, for its part, acted just as rationally. Along with the design firm, they went back to the drawing board, making adjustments to the original plans and expanding their presentation with more details. The recent presentation of those plans led to approval and brought the club one step closer to completing their new home.
Together, Orlando's club and local elected officials have set an example for future MLS hopefuls to follow.