Phil Rawl­ins

[Phil Raw­ins, Founder & Pres­i­dent, Or­lando City, Soc­cer]

Where Orlando - - Where Inside My Orlando -

A na­tive of Stoke-on-Trent in the United King­dom, Rawl­ins came to Or­lando in 2010 to start the Or­lando City Soc­cer team. Rawl­ins has spent 15 years in sports man­age­ment fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in mar­ket­ing as the founder of On Tar­get. Rawl­ins was for­merly the owner and di­rec­tor of his home­town English Premier League team, Stoke City FC.

This year, Or­lando City Soc­cer joins the ma­jor leagues. What does that mean for the team and for Or­lando?

When we first an­nounced the team back in 2010 we said very clearly our goal was to bring the ma­jor leagues here. We are de­lighted to have met that goal. It’s a great eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity to have the sec­ond ma­jor league sports team here. [After the NBA's Or­lando Magic.]

Tell us about the new $85-mil­lion sta­dium that's be­ing built right now and the sig­nif­i­cance of its down­town lo­ca­tion.

Next year we’ll re­turn to the new Cit­rus Bowl. And dur­ing the course of ’15, we’ll be build­ing the soc­cer sta­dium. It’s a fan­tas­tic lo­ca­tion, a clas­sic sta­dium with 20 thou­sand fans, club seats and 38 lux­ury suites. We worked very, very hard to en­sure we have a down­town lo­ca­tion in the ur­ban core. We’ll have the game down­town ev­ery other week­end from March to Novem­ber, sur­rounded by bars and restau­rants. The pres­i­dent of the MLS said it’s the best sta­dium lo­ca­tion in the coun­try.

Soc­cer has been slower to take off in other U.S. ci­ties com­pared to sports like foot­ball and base­ball. What makes Or­lando a

good mar­ket for soc­cer?

If you look at the de­mo­graph­ics of the sport, our core au­di­ence is the mil­len­ni­als who are 18-35 years old. The av­er­age age of Or­lando res­i­dents is 34. We’re right in the sweet spot. It’s very much a game they take in their hearts. They grew up play­ing it and are part of the soc­cer cul­ture.

Do you ex­pect the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to im­pact the attendance of games?

Yeah, very much so. Our pop­u­la­tion is ob­vi­ously fairly tran­sient. A lot of peo­ple are ex­posed to the game of soc­cer be­fore they moved here. Many of the vis­i­tors we at­tract here are com­ing from coun­tries who love soc­cer. We’ll at­tract vis­it­ing tourists who want to maybe get away from the parks for a day, break up their trip and do a lit­tle some­thing dif­fer­ent while they're here.

You've al­ready signed Brazil­ian su­per-star Kaká to the team. What is Or­lando’s draw for re­cruit­ing other pro­fes­sional ath­letes?

It’s a big job be­cause we have to re­cruit a whole roster, but we’ve had no short­age of play­ers who want to come play for us.

What do you per­son­ally like about Or­lando?

I think, for me, the great dis­cov­ery of Or­lando is the lit­tle neigh­bor­hoods, ar­eas like Thorn­ton Park, Col­lege Park, Win­ter Park, with shops, restau­rants, unique places to hang out. My ad­vice to vis­i­tors is to be out and be ad­ven­tur­ous a lit­tle bit, get away from the parks and visit the lit­tle na­tive ar­eas that we have.

The new MLS sta­dium

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