Orlando City Soccer, with this weeks away draw in Sacramento, remain unbeaten in the 2014 season. On the field, their 18 undefeated games have ensured they top the USLPRO table by 11 points over their next closest rivals Richmond Kickers.
Off the field, preparations are well underway for their debut season as a Major League Soccer club. Their home for the 2015 season will be the Florida Citrus Bowl (pictured below) that’s currently undergoing a $200 million overhaul that will see a newly constructed lower bowl, a vibrant open air exterior facade and an expanded 360 degree main concourse. The stadium needs to be ready by 22nd November as the Florida Classic football game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman universities is due to take place that day.
The Lions will play just one season at the revamped facility before moving to their own home sandwiched between the Amway Center and the Citrus Bowl. Originally, the club had wanted to play just part of their inaugural season at the Citrus Bowl as they had hoped to move into their new ground to see out the 2015 MLS season. Unfortunately, a small family owned church stands in the way of that and a legal battle is now underway as the City of Orlando looks to acquire the necessary land.
The city initially offered $1.5 million for the property occupied by Faith Deliverance Temple (pictured above), more than twice it’s appraised value. Church leaders countered with an asking price of $35 million. The city then eventually raised its offer as high as $4 million and the church dropped its price as low $15 million, but the parties never came any closer to a deal. As a result City Hall then filed an eminent domain action in court in 2013, after spending a year in failed negotiations to buy the property situated on Church Street.
Arguments are now being made by Attorney Andrew Prince Brigham, for the property owners, that the City of Orlando’s action violates Florida’s Constitution. Brigham claims that the land wouldn’t be used for a legitimate public purpose. “The City’s proposed taking is not for a public purpose,” Brigham said in a news release. “The City is simply a conduit for eminent domain to take from one private entity, a church, and transfer the use of the property to another private entity, a soccer franchise.”
At face value that argument seems weak and merely a negotiating tool to buy more time in the hope that a more amicable settlement can be reached for his clients. In taking that stance, it seems that Brigham and his clients are playing a very dangerous game; one where they may actually walk away with far below the $4 million they were offered and, indeed, even below the City of Orlando’s opening offer of $1.5 million.
In previous cases where the city bought other land via eminent domain to locate the soccer stadium, a judge sided with the city, ruling that the stadium would indeed serve a public purpose. In both those cases, however, the property owners presented no evidence to put up a fight.
The bottom line, though, is that the new stadium really will bring significant benefits to the community as crowds of approximately 20,000 are expected at each MLS game and that means jobs and economic development in a part of town that desperately needs some investment.
Naturally, in the negotiation, the property owners, as is their right, are continuing to put up a fight, but surely it’s time for some common sense to come to the front and for them to realize that they can actually do an awful lot for their community by taking the money on offer and building a brand new worship facility in the neighborhood?
According to public records, the property was purchased by the current owners on 5th December 1989 for $92,500. The current assessed value shows the land value at $154,390, the buildings at $297,530 and features at $13,070 for a total assessed value of $464,990. The property if it were not exempt from taxes they would be paying $9,369 per annum.
Frankly, aside from all other arguments, it’s just a sensible business decision to take $4 million when the property is worth a fraction of that. The church leaders would then be able to move forward and build a brand new facility and to attract even more members to their services. Of course, they can continue to stick their feet in the sand but in doing so, all that is really going to happen is that the property will remain at its current value while ongoing maintenance costs will continue to build up.
The elders and leaders at the church need to understand that by giving up their land for the exchange of more than a fair dollar, that they are both adding to the Parramore community as well as being given an opportunity that they will never get again. Not only is this a chance for them to help Orlando grow but it is a chance for their whole community to grow. Yes, we get that they are being resolute on a point of principle, one of being asked to leave their property, but it is important for them to recognize they aren’t being asked to leave the community for good.
Allowing the City of Orlando to come in and develop the land for Orlando City Soccer is simply the right thing to do for Central Florida and the sooner the club is able to deliver on the stadium package that they recently revealed, the better it will be for all concerned. The $110 million stadium renderings (pictured above) were recently made public and they show a superb stadium for the whole community to enjoy and one that will prove an attractive addition to the Downtown Orlando landscape.
In all of this, there is the bigger picture to consider. The future of Orlando.
It is imperative that the final piece of the jigsaw is put into place on time and on schedule so that it can really help the City Beautiful become a place where visitors come for a whole host of reasons as well as tourism.
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is also scheduled for a November 2014 opening alongside the Citrus Bowl. The ribbon cutting is scheduled for November 6th and President Kathy Ramsberger has announced that they are still working through contractual aspects for the opening nights talent. The $514 million center will be home to touring Broadway shows and “The Phantom of the Opera” is scheduled to kick off that series in December.
Orlando Ballet has also unveiled its lineup for the center and its season will include “Swan Lake” and perennial favorite “The Nutcracker.”
Orlando promises to become a fabulous place for local residents and visitors and will soon have a whole host of superb activities and entertainment for everyone to enjoy. We get that members of the family that built and operate the church have a hard time giving up what they built but the compensation they are being offered absolutely means that their 40 year old church can relocate elsewhere and still have size-able funds with which to grow. A win-win-win deal really is being offered by the City of Orlando and hopefully Mr. Brigham and his clients can come to a satisfactory deal before the September hearing. Orlando depends upon it. We have faith that all parties will work it out.