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Orlando's Stadium Finds a New Route to Public Funding

The owner of the MLS's Orlando City soccer team has found an innovative way to finance his team's new $156 million stadium, funded by foreign buyers of American green cards.
May 28, 2016, 5am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Keegan Berry

Orlando City S.C. of Major League Soccer has taken a new and somewhat controversial approach to funding its new stadium. Ken Belson reports in the New York Times that Orlando City owner Flávio Augusto da Silva is using a Federal program, known as EB-5, that allows developers to raise capital by selling green cards to foreign buyers. As Belson notes, the program was "intended to help pay for infrastructure projects in rural areas and poor urban neighborhoods." However, during the last recession the program was adopted by private developers to fund the construction of hotels and condos.

The Orlando project features a 25,000-seat stadium, scheduled to open for the 2017 seasons of both Orlando City S.C. and the Orlando Pride, the women’s team that Mr. da Silva owns with his partner Phil Rawlins. Originally, the city and county agreed to subsidize the project. But when state lawmakers balked at approving a sales tax rebate, Mr. da Silva turned to the EB-5 program, something Orlando’s mayor, Buddy Dyer, cheered.

The soccer club has raised $15 million to date from 30 investors who have purchased the green card for $500,000 each. In addition to a green card, which allows the investor and their family to live and work in the United States, the investor also receives two club seats in the stadium for ten years.

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Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 in New York Times
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