This past week, local news station WFTV reported a recent spate of violent crime in the area around the new Orlando City SC stadium site.
The article details a shooting that occurred in the Parramore neighborhood about one block from the stadium site. On the next day, a man armed with a machete threatened a police officer. It goes on to quote residents and property owners about the dangerous nature of the neighborhood, including resident Vera Gaskins who said, "Every night, and I'm not exaggerating, there's shootings, crime, drive-bys."
Unlike beer, smoke bombs, and witty chants, machetes don't typically go well with professional soccer.
For those familiar with the neighborhood, these crimes may not come as a surprise. Parramore has consistently been one of the poorest neighborhoods in Orlando over the past decades, with poverty rates as high as 73% of the population in 2005. It was also selected as one of the 25 most violent neighborhoods in the country as recently as 2010.
This all has to raise some concerns for the club, as it will certainly have a difficult time attracting fans to matches if violent crime and theft are rampant around the stadium. There are plenty of what-ifs surrounding the success of professional soccer in Orlando, but it's considered to be a given that Orlando City must consistently fill the stadium each week.
So how much of an issue is this crime as Orlando is 14 months from moving to their new home? While it's not quite time to panic, it's not something that should be taken lightly either.
It's important that Orlando City recognize that building a stadium alone might not be enough to improve the surrounding neighborhood. The stadium was sold to the city in part as something that would improve the economic situation of Parramore. While this may be true, it can't be considered a silver bullet.
Expect the team to continue pouring time and resources into community relations over the next year. Additionally, look for the City of Orlando to double down on its own efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. They've got a stake in this too.
Many of our readers are long-time Orlando residents who have lived or worked in or around the Parramore area at some point, so I wanted to pose the questions to them. How concerned should Orlando City be about crime reports like these, and what do you think can be done to make sure this doesn't negatively impact the team in 2016?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.