Central Florida business leaders urge Teresa Jacobs, Buddy Dyer, to act quickly on Pro Bowl deal

pro bowl citrus bowl

The presidents of five Central Florida Chambers of Commerce and business groups wrote to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer Friday urging quick action to bring the NFL Pro Bowl to Orlando.

The chamber heads sought to differentiate providing tourism dollars for the NFL all-star game from the bigger picture of deciding long term how to manage those dollars, to appease Jacobs’ concerns.

“While we respect the importance of maintaining a strong Tourism Development Tax reserve, we believe the above proposal can be accomplished without significant impacts on the current reserves,” the business leaders wrote. “The NFL Pro Bowl would provide an incredible boost to our local economy and clearly meets the criteria specified to receive funding through the Tourist Development Tax.”

They urged swift approval of money for the deal, “to demonstrate to the National Football League that this community wholeheartedly welcomes this premier event.”

The letter was signed by Jacob Stuart, president of the Central Florida Partnership and Robert Agrusa, executive director of BusinessForce, which are both affiliated with the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce; Jason Brodeur, who besides being a state representative from Sanford is also president of the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce; Laura Heiselman, president of the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce; and John Newstreet, president of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce.

It was revealed earlier this week that the Florida Citrus Sports organization, Central Florida’s sports promotions authority, was negotiating with the NFL to bring the 2017, ’18 and ’19 Pro Bowl games to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

The deal would require Orange County to provide $1 million a year of tourist tax receipts to the NFL, and for Visit Orlando, the region’s tourism bureau, to provide another $500,000 a year in tourist dollars. Other monies would be contributed by other government and quasi-government agencies, as the NFL was seeking at least $2.5 million a year.

Florida Citrus Sports Chief Executive Officer Steve Hogan said in a letter he sent to business leaders that his organization was trying to work within a 30-day window to strike a deal with the NFL, meaning time was critical.

Orange County controls the tourist tax, though much of it is tied up in complex contracts with the city of Orlando.

Jacobs has put the brakes on any changes to the tourism tax, for other reasons, but on Thursday she set a special meeting of the Orange County Commission and the Orange County Tourist Development Council to consider the proposal.

“By acting quickly, Orange County has the opportunity to prove to the National Football League that we are serious about this prospect and we are committed to its success,” the business leaders wrote to Jacobs and Dyer. “There is a narrow window of opportunity to negotiate a deal with the NFL, and the time is now.”


Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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