Four years after a $207-million renovation of the former Citrus Bowl, Central Florida leaders recommended Friday spending another $60 million on new upgrades to the sports-entertainment venue, now known as Camping World Stadium.
“Let’s finish the job,” said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, who presented the proposal to the Tourist Development Council, an advisory committee that includes Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
Hogan said the proposed upgrades, including more premium seating, were trimmed from the original renovation because of cost concerns and compromises which followed the region’s economic recession in the late 2000’s.
“We want to make it better for fans,” he said. “We want to remain competitive.”
Hogan showed the advisory panel ritzy, new athletic venues in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Las Vegas which could bid for events Camping World Stadium has won.
Since reopening in 2014, the Orlando stadium has hosted NFL Pro Bowls, top-tier college football games, international soccer matches, concerts ranging from the Rolling Stones in 2015 to Beyonce/Jay-Z this summer, and special events including WrestleMania.
“I think absolutely we can claim to be the top sports-entertainment destination in the country,” Dyer said, citing the U.S. Tennis Association complex in Lake Nona, the new Amway Center and the Orlando City Stadium for soccer.
But that boast demands upgrades to the 65,000-seat stadium, which the city of Orlando hopes will host a World Cup soccer game in 2026, he said.
Orlando is among 23 potential host cities included in the United Bid for the World Cup, a joint effort between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Host cities will be narrowed down to 16 in 2020.
The Tourist Development Council unanimously recommended the stadium-improvement plan, but Orange County commissioners will have the final say next month.
The money would come from the county’s tourist development tax, also known as the hotel tax.
The tax is a 6-percent assessment added to the cost of short-term lodging at a hotel, resort or through Airbnb in Orange County. The tax has brought in more than $238 million so far this year.
Hotel-tax revenues have been used in the past to finance the Orange County Convention Center, defray the cost of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, build the Amway Center and underwrite Visit Orlando, the region’s marketing arm.
Also Friday, the Tourist Development Council recommended county commissioners give $10 million from hotel-tax revenues to the onePULSE Foundation to buy land for a permanent Pulse memorial and museum at the site of the Orlando nightclub, where 49 people were killed June 16, 2016.
The advisory panel also endorsed a $4-million funding request for the Orlando Ballet, which plans to build a 17,630-square-foot multipurpose auditorium.
The venue would be named “Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre,” in honor of philanthropist, style icon and arts supporter Harriett Lake, who donated $2.5 million to the project in 2014 and $5 million more this year. She died in July at 96.
Hogan said the stadium proposal would improve surrounding parking areas, modernize upper-level restrooms and concession areas, and connect the east and west concourses.
He said some planned improvements target areas of the stadium that were not addressed during the recent renovation, notably the terrace-level “upper decks.”
The plan is also intended to diversify seating options and prices and improve the experience for club-level patrons, who often are invited guests of event sponsors.
If approved, construction would likely be completed in 2020, Hogan said.
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