Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Olé, olé olé olé! An interview with Orlando City Soccer Club's Owner & President, Phil Rawlins

Since its inception less than three years ago, the Orlando City Soccer Club (OCSC) Lions have dominated the USL Pro league -- and now our team is on the short list to secure Orlando's place in Major League Soccer. If you've been to any games, you know that OCSC Owner and President Phil Rawlins takes "hands-on" to another level by gettin' rowdy in the fan section with the best of us. Below, Rawlins answers some of our burning questions and shares his vision for our city's soccer future:

Can you tell us why Orlando was so appealing to you when looking to relocate from Austin a few years back? 
The diversity of the population, average age of the population, lack of professional sports competition, MLS had stated they wanted to have two teams in the Southeast. Orlando was the perfect demographic.

Everyone wants to discuss the stadium, including us here at theORLANDOAN. I know there have been some setbacks, but do you still see a soccer-specific stadium on the near horizon?

Recently, Mayor Dyer suggested a two-phased building option that would allow stadium construction to happen earlier. Is this option a front-runner for you?
Still one of the options.

When will renderings of the proposed stadium be released? Do you foresee a real grass stadium or artificial surfaces?
Grass field, but renderings won’t be released until we've agreed on the final design.

What other events would the stadium be likely to host in addition to soccer?
NCAA Final Fours, lacrosse, rugby, outdoor concerts.

What do you think the stadiums impact on Orlando will look like and what do you think an MLS team playing in its own, soccer-specific stadium will mean for the downtown community overall?
Besides the obvious economic benefits to Central Florida, a second major league sports team adds to the quality of life of the citizens of the area and adds to Orlando’s growing reputation as a fast growing, international city.

What kind of price increase for tickets do you expect to see?
At this stage, we haven’t agreed on a pricing structure, but we expect tickets to still be at a reasonable, affordable level.

You've been known to come down to the Supporters section on occasion to catch a match from the stands. How important is it for you to really be visible and part of that game day environment?
I like to get around to all different parts of the stadium – I love the supporters section as that is the kind of atmosphere I grew up around.

Do you have a favorite fan chant or song?
I really like the song we use for our intros and the Soccercast.

What are some of your favorite fan moments so far?
The joy and excitement of winning the Championship in 2011 and also sharing the celebrations with the fans when we won the I-4 Derby.

Recently, there has been some discussion about the rowdiness of some of the fans. Do you see this as a positive or a negative?
The article in question was a bit unfounded, they could not find anyone to interview who agreed with it! We have a section of the stadium specifically for families.

Let’s talk about how Orlando City gets involved here in our local community. Can you tell us some of the ways Orlando City gives back, and some of the charities you have worked with, and about the Orlando City Foundation?
Our players do 28 hours of community service each per season and make visits to schools, youth groups, and non-profit events talking about exercise, healthy eating, working hard, and going to college. Some of our players have their own causes and help raise awareness and funds for their chosen non-profit.

We feature a non-profit at our games, giving them exposure and the opportunity to reward their volunteers with free tickets to the game. Some examples are Community Food & Outreach, Rebuild Globally, Just1Book, Howard Phillips Center, Easter Seals. We played in pink uniforms and auctioned the jerseys afterward, raising $5800 for Women Playing for TIME. Check out our Out and About blog on the Community tab! The funds raised by the Foundation are used in a variety of ways including soccer scholarships, indestructible soccer balls, and programs that tackle obesity in children.

Going forward, as Orlando City gains in popularity and has more resources, what are some things you would like to do for the community?
The Foundation is already working on plans for lit community soccer fields in the Parramore district, an underserved area in terms of our sport. Programs and mentorship would come along with it, plus more job opportunities. We will continue to promote the message of exercise and healthy eating through soccer clinics all over the Central Florida region. We would also look to expand our youth program to include a residential soccer academy that will help to produce the players of the future.

Rumored stadium site on West Church Street at Terry Avenue in Downtown Orlando.
Speaking of the MLS possibility, would Orlando City look to retain many of the current players, or do you see more positives in building solely from the supplemental draft?
I think it will be a mixture of current and new. At the end of the day, Head Coach Adrian Heath makes those decisions and I trust him to choose wisely.

What's the strategy behind the hiring of former MLS employee Brett Lashbrook?
Brett has over seven years of exceptional experience with MLS, especially in bringing on board and developing expansion franchises. His experience at MLS will be invaluable for us as we make our push to develop a franchise here in Orlando.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about David Beckham’s interest in owning an MLS team. Do you see David Beckham's recent interest in Miami as a hindrance or as a benefit? Has he been approached to partner with Orlando?
His interest in a franchise in Miami only seeks to heighten the point that bringing a franchise to the south east is competitive; we have to ensure we are ahead of Miami. There has been no dialogue between Orlando City and David Beckham or his representatives.

Interview by Mark Perez, theORLANDOAN contributor and Community Relations and Programs Operations Coordinator for Community Food and Outreach Center.


  1. Thx for sharing great interview!! soccer's coming of age in the U.S. and seems Orlando's becoming an important part of it.

  2. Thanks! Glad you liked our post!