Rendering of the proposed soccer stadium in downtown Lakeland. (Courtesy of City of Lakeland)
LAKELAND, Fla. — The City of Lakeland is looking to the future.
Lakeland considering a professional soccer stadium Commissioners want to lure a professional outdoor team The stadium would cost an estimated $8 milllion to build
Commissioners are debating whether to build a soccer stadium to lure a professional outdoor team to come there.
The soccer stadium is included in the city’s downtown catalyst plan, which outlines what the area should look like in the next 15 years.
"It’s not about redeveloping downtown but just dreaming a little bigger for downtown," Lakeland’s community and economic development director Nicole Travis said.
The stadium is estimated to cost around $8 million to build, and it could seat 3,500 people. It’d be used for other high school sports tournaments like football and lacrosse, and to host concerts as well.
The Lakeland Tropics are pushing for the stadium. The semi-professional outdoor team currently plays in Lakeland at Bryant Stadium.
"We have a big fan following," Lakeland Tropics general manager Andrew Ross said. "We have youth clubs with 5-6,000 families in them. So we have the database and we have the fan base right now. If you build them we will come."
"We feel if we jump to a higher level, build the stadium, create that excitement, that we’ll be able to pack that place."
"We’re not looking at just building a soccer stadium," Travis said. "There’s an economic impact to that. The restaurants become stronger in downtown. There are people that come ahead of games and events to have lunch and dinner or they go to have lunch and dinner after events."
Long term, the plan also calls for the city to build four, $20 million parking garages throughout downtown. The hope is the parking garages will inspire developers to build a corporate business park next to the R.P. Funding Center as well as office buildings on vacant lots, or where there are currently surface parking lots.
"This is really looking at how could the city invest to help spur development for the next phase of downtown," Travis said.
"I think it’s a good thing, especially when we’re seeing how our downtown has turned around," Lakeland Commissioner Phillip Walker said.
Downtown merchant Kia Troutman of Curated Interiors said she likes the plan.
"Anything that is going to enhance our community, economically, that’s going to bring in jobs, well-paying jobs and bring in culture and opportunity, I think it’s great. I am excited about that," Troutman said.
Commissioners are now contemplating how to fund the stadium. The options include public-private partnerships, raising taxes, and sponsorships.
Commissioner Walker said he encouraged residents to stay engaged and voice their opinions on the topic.