The city of Orlando has approved the sale of an additional $69 million in bonds to partially plug a gaping funding hole in its originally $1.1-billion Community Venues building program and kick-start construction of the $250-million first phase of the city’s new performing arts center.

The Amway Center, future home of the Orlando Magic, is scheduled for an October opening near downtown Orlando.
Photo: Orlando Magic
The Amway Center, future home of the Orlando Magic, is scheduled for an October opening near downtown Orlando.

Funding for the second piece of Orlando’s venues program had taken a hit when revenue from the tourist development tax plunged as a result of the recession. The city had originally planned to have $130 million in tourist development tax dollars for the project; but so far only $10 million has been generated.

Roughly $70 million in Community Redevelopment Agency bonds had already been provided for the originally $450-million Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center (DPAC).

Despite the economy, private fundraising has exceeded expectations, with about $88 million raised to date, according to DPAC officials. Site demolition of the city-owned two-block downtown parcel is slated to start in April. Construction manager Balfour Beatty Construction of Orlando is now targeting a fall groundbreaking.

This first phase would deliver two of the three halls planned for the facility. The $70-million second stage would include the building envelope and administration and education space.

Included in a future third stage would be construction of the third hall, a 1,700-seat facility sponsored by Walt Disney World Co. It would need to be sonically and physically isolated from the rest of the performing arts center, so project officials say that works well with the staging plan.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told ENR that the latest bond sale is partly an attempt to sustain DPAC’s fundraising momentum.

“We can’t not move forward with the PAC,” Dyer says. “We’ve created this momentum, (and) if we don’t capitalize on it, we could lose that momentum in terms of fundraising. ‘We think by breaking ground it will help with that commitment.”

The planned fall start of the project coincides with the conclusion of the first Venues project, the $380-million Amway Arena, which is set for an Oct. 10 grand opening. The new home for the Orlando Magic, being built by a Hunt Construction-led joint venture as construction manager and Turner Construction of Orlando as program manager, has been a big driver of local jobs during the down economy.

“What if we didn’t have all of this going on?” Dyer asks, rhetorically. “We have been able to keep local businesses busy and employed.”

The city estimates that approximately 36% of the Amway Center contracts have been awarded to local minority and women-owned businesses, for example, for a total of about $91 million. The city’s Blueprint office, created as part of the venues program to hire local residents for project-related positions, has placed roughly 1,000 people in jobs. Roughly 300 of those positions were on the Venues projects; the others have been placed in other businesses.