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Politics

Stadium Funding Seekers Pitch Jobs, Visitors

November 21, 2014 - 6:00pm

Jacksonville has its eyes on attracting tourists from England as part of a recently filed application seeking $30 million from the state for work at EverBank Field.

Orlando envisions that a $110 million soccer stadium will be a "one-of-a-kind downtown venue" that plays a key role in the growth of the city's central business district and also could increase tourism from South America, according to an application for $60 million.

The Miami Dolphins promise world-class events that will significantly benefit South Florida as part of a request for $90 million to boost the team's $350 million in renovations to Sun Life Stadium.

Daytona International Speedway, also seeking $90 million from the state, declares that its ongoing $400 million front-stretch expansion will, in addition to auto races, "attract nonsports events that bring thousands of visitors to Florida and pump millions of dollars into the economy."

All four promise new jobs for Floridians.

The four venues are in a competition for this year's pot of $7 million in state sales-tax dollars for stadium projects. The most any single proposal could receive is $3 million a year. The payments would continue for 30 years to cover or enhance construction work that is planned or under way.

The money is part of a new funding process, crafted this year by lawmakers, that requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to evaluate each proposal for potential economic benefit.

There is no guarantee of funding. But even if all are found economically viable, at least one of the proposals will fail this year as the funding requests collectively seek $9 million annually.

Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who has backed funding for a soccer stadium in past legislative sessions, called Orlando's proposal "a great investment."

"I believe that the funding formula we passed, the methodology that we passed, the ability of the state to assist in making various parts (of the state), such as Orlando, a more world-class community, we should do it," Simmons said.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who has been a proponent of funding for Daytona International Speedway, said the speedway's ability to attract out-of-state visitors should put it at the top of any list. "I say we rank very high," Hukill said.

The applications were due Nov. 1.

The state agency has yet to declare any of the applications complete, said department spokeswoman Jennifer Diaz.

Once an application is deemed complete, a 60-day clock begins for the state agency to determine if the request is economically viable. A list ranking the applications is to be forwarded to the Legislative Budget Commission by Feb. 1.

The intent of the review process is to reduce lobbying for stadium projects.

Based upon sheer paper volume, Orlando and Jacksonville would be the front-runners in the new funding process.

The application from Jacksonville, supported by the Jacksonville Jaguars, stands at 954 pages.

Orlando, working to assist the Major League Soccer expansion of Orlando City Soccer Club with a new 18,000-seat stadium, submitted a 1,144-page application.

Less bulky, Daytona International Speedway LLC filed a 110-page application. South Florida Stadium LLC, filing for the Miami Dolphins' home, submitted 219 pages of material.

Regardless of size, each package is chock full of financial information about the facilities, from ticket and concession revenues to government-lease agreements and contracts with builders.

Each pitch projects construction jobs and full-time employment.

The most jobs promised came from Daytona International Speedway, where work stared on its Daytona Rising project in July 2013.

Here is a glance at the projects:

Daytona International Speedway

As of August, 2014, over 2,300 jobs have been created for the Daytona Rising project, according to the speedway's application.

The changes at the 480-acre motorsports complex that opened in 1959 are projected to generate more than 6,300 new jobs, directly and indirectly, and $80 million in new tax revenue. The work is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Daytona 500.

The completed work will leave the complex with fewer seats, reduced from 147,000 to 101,000. The new chairs will be wider, and there will be a doubling of restrooms and three times as many concession stands. Yet even with fewer seats, spending and revenues are projected to steadily increase.

Ticket sales for all events are expected to grow from 1.185 million in 2015, generating $34.1 million, to 1.37 million, generating on average $56.7 million a year, through 2054.

The revenue optimism comes in part from the national draw of NASCAR. The speedway notes that 81 percent of its Facebook fan base comes from outside Florida.

Sun Life Stadium

A study by Convention Sports & Leisure included with the application for Sun Life Stadium declares that the work will create 3,400 part-time and full-time jobs, of which 2,000 are for construction.

The project includes new seats, a shade canopy for customers, new video boards, and concourse and concession improvements. The stadium management also intends to improve vehicle and pedestrian access, replace exterior escalators, and upgrade existing elevators.

The stadium work, expected to be completed by the start of the 2016 National Football League season, is projected to attract about 6.2 million out-of-state visitors between 2017 and 2046, an average of 227,370 a year, according to the application.

The projections are based on figures for Miami Dolphins and University of Miami football games, along with the potential of a Super Bowl every six years, a WrestleMania event every five years, a college national-championship game every five years and periodic international soccer matches, concerts, and other smaller events.

EverBank Field

Jacksonville anticipates taxable sales will grow an average of $9.2 million a year through 2029 at EverBank Field, due to $100 million in work started in 2013.

The improvements include remodeled locker rooms and training facilities, a new north end-zone deck, upgrades to the stadium-wide Wi-Fi, and two new 60-foot-tall, 362-foot-long scoreboards that a fact sheet included in the application notes are longer than the height of Godzilla in the 2014 movie.

The city's application states that work completed prior to the start of the current NFL season employed more than 1,000 construction workers and 40 office positions. Work yet to be completed, which would be bolstered by the state money, could employ 500 construction workers and 40 office positions.

To boost the city's proposal, an Oct. 30 letter from Jacksonville Jaguars LLC President Mark Lamping pledges the team will repay any state money distributed under the sales-tax deal if the team moves.

The Jaguars' lease for the stadium with the city is through the 2029-2030 season.

Lamping also has the team agreeing to pay for an advertisement within the stadium for the state's tourism arm Visit Florida.

Part of the tourism push for Jacksonville is aimed at London. The Jaguars' owner, Shahid Shad Khan, also owns the Fulham Football Club in the English Championship League, and the application notes there are two full-time employees dedicated to the team's "London Strategy" and that the Jaguars U.K. fan base stands at 23,000.

Orlando Soccer

In Orlando, where site preparations began in August and the stadium is set to start going up in February, 525 full-time construction jobs are projected, of which 90 percent will be from Florida, according to the application.

To show the breadth of impact, the application highlights that approximately $25 million in construction materials also will come from Florida.

Once completed, the stadium will provide permanent employment for 60 people and part-time work for 500, which the application notes is based upon operations at other MLS stadiums.

The stadium will house the Orlando City Soccer Club, also called the Lions, which is entering Major League Soccer in 2015. It is intended to spur growth in an area that stands at 11.5 percent unemployment and has a high poverty rate.

"The new stadium for the Lions is to be located in the Parramore District and the project is seen as a key contributor in the city's redevelopment plan for the area and as an integral component of the western growth of Orlando's central business district," the application states.

In addition to the Orlando City Lions, who have committed to playing in the stadium for 30 years, the complex is to hold additional events that include soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse, concerts and community events.

Orlando City hopes to attract at least one high-profile international competition every other year to the stadium .Orlando also hopes to host an MLS All-Star game by 2020 in the new complex.

The team's initial ticket prices are expected to average $30 the first year, along with $10 for parking, with each customer spending $12 on average for food and drinks.

A focus of Orlando City is South America, with special emphasis on Brazilian tourists, as principal owner Flavio Augusto da Silva and Kaka, one of the team's starters, are both from Brazil. The team is also syndicating games with a Brazilian radio station, according to the application.

The city projects that increasing the number of annual visitors from Brazil by 50,000 would amount to $90 million in regional spending.

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