While the Miami Dolphins are asking for millions in state money to help upgrade Sun Life Stadium, some lawmakers are focusing on sports teams that don't even exist yet.
A state Senate panel today approved a bill that would grant $2 million a year in order to build new soccer stadiums to lure Major League Soccer back to Florida.
Sen. David Simmons, a Republican out of Altamonte Springs, filed the bill, and today it was approved unanimously by the Commerce and Tourism Committee. The bill adds the MLS to the state's definition of professional sports leagues, and more importantly, directs the Department of Commerce to "reserve two facility certifications for new professional sports franchises in Major League Soccer."
In effect, that would allow the state to create state subsidies to help pay for a soccer stadium at a rate of $2 million a year over the next 30 years, or $60 million in total.
The state was once home to two MLS franchises, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion, but that didn't work out so well and both were disbanded in 2001.
Miami soccer fans shouldn't get excited about the bill. The AP reports that Orlando is being considered as a possible location for a new stadium, while last year an English firm unveiled plans to build a $400 million soccer stadium in downtown Tampa contingent on the city securing an MLS franchise.
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Of course, we have to ask if Florida really needs any more pro sports teams. We're barely supporting the ones we have. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the 13th, 4th and 2nd worse average home attendance in the NFL last season, respectively. The Tampa Bay Rays had the worst attendance in the MLB last season, and the Miami Marlins, even with a new stadium, only came in 18th (something we expect to drop drastically next year). The only two teams that really have anything to brag about attendance-wise in the state are the Miami Heat (3rd in the NBA so far this season) and Tampa Bay Lightening (7th in the NHL last season).
But if you build it, will they come? Well, it didn't work out with our first experiment with the MLS, and it's barely working out with most teams that play actual American sports.