Orlando is readying a pitch to attract the 2019 Major League Soccer All-Star Game but organizers could need $350,000 in backing from public funds and if they get that they’ll have to do it Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ way.
At Friday’s Tourist Development Council meeting, which Jacobs chairs, she lashed out at organizers for coming in late and through what she described as inappropriate protocol seeking county tourism tax support for the bid.
The bid must be filed with the league by August 25.
Jacobs’ refused to allow the council, an advisory board to the Orange County Commission, to vote to support any financial backing for the project.
Even while doing so, she insisted that she very much wants to see Orlando apply for and host the game, which would be sometime in July or August of 2019.
Instead, she worked out an alternative way the county could offer tourist tax guarantees to cover any possible losses up to $350,000, and the council voted unanimously to encourage the county commission to “take whatever actions deemed appropriate and necessary to bring the MLS All-Star game for 2019 here to Central Florida.”
That alternative cuts public notice timetables to the bear minimum; if they’re not met, the arrangement could force her to call a special meeting of the Orange County Commission in late August, and she said she’d be willing to do so.
She also made it clear that she has no intention of just giving organizers the money, and will require an audit to show that any losses up to $350,000 are legitimate.
The Central Florida Sports Commission, backed by the Orlando City Soccer Club, came in Friday with a request for county backing that would have had the Tourist Development Council vote to support the deal committing $350,000, and then have the county rush the proposal as an ordinance amending the county’s tourism tax plan in time for the August 25 deadline.
No, Jacobs said, as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Tourist Development Council member who argued briefly for that deal, looked on. Jacobs, who last year found herself at odds with Dyer, Orlando’s big theme parks, Orlando’s big hoteliers and others who wanted pieces of the tourism tax, has insisted on being a stickler for county rules and she held that position again Friday, even as she expressed her own enthusiasm for the MLS soccer game.
“We didn’t think we were in a position to do that because we didn’t really know they were coming in with this until, literally, Monday,” Jacobs said later. “And when did realize they wanted a commitment of $ 350,000 we didn’t have the time at that point to get the information we needed to analyze it the way would normally do to bring it forward with a recommendation. So one, it fell short of the timeframe for publicly noticing it that we adhere to, and it fell short of the timeframe we needed to thoroughly evaluate the request.”
The alternative funding process has been in the works since last year, a proposal to create a special “Sports Marketing Bid Fund” to make tourism tax available for just such opportunities. Five million dollars was allocated to that fund. But the proposal has been mired for months, and awaits an advisory board that is no where near ready to be appointed. This time – a one-time only situation, Jacobs said – she would support giving the MLS proposal backers the opportunity to dip into that fund without going before an advisory board, but only if Visit Orlando reviewed the proposal and made a staff recommendation as to whether it would make sense.
That could be approved at the August Orange County Commission meeting. The commission is not scheduled to meet on August 8 or 15 due to the typical August recess.