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Funding OK'd for Orlando MLS stadium

The Orange County (Fla.) Commission approved funds for a soccer specific stadium in downtown Orlando on Tuesday, clearing the final financial hurdle to bringing an MLS expansion team to Orlando.

The Orange County panel voted 5-2 to approve a $94.5 million funding package, which included $20 million in tourist taxes for the proposed Orlando stadium. This follows approvals by the Orlando City Council as well as the Tourist Development Council.

Now all that remains is for Orlando City Soccer Club to work out the details of an agreement for an expansion team with MLS. Earlier in the week, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told the Orlando Sentinel that if the club is able to secure funding for the stadium, the league would move quickly to approve the application. The team is hoping to begin play in 2015.

The total construction costs for the stadium are expected to be $84 million, with Orlando City providing $30 million plus annual payments over the next 25 years. The city of Orlando is expected to provide another $20 million in funding with the remainder expected to come from other nearby jurisdictions.

With five yes votes from the seven-member body needed to approve the funding package, there had been some concern about whether the measure would be passed, especially when three commissioners expressed reservations about the stadium. But the pitch presented by Orlando City president Phil Rawlins, as well as the efforts of Abbott, proved persuasive, with commissioner Pete Clark providing the crucial vote.

Rawlins said once the final paperwork is complete with the league, they hope to make an announcement in about a month. "I think anytime you're building toward a vision and achieving your dreams it's always exciting,'' Rawlins said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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