The city of Orlando will be exercising its powers of eminent domain to demolish a 30-year-old church and build a soccer stadium in its place.
"There are no other options, we've also worked with them, identified properties they could move their church to that are existing properties. We have worked in every way possible," said Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer.
City officials offered $1.5 million for the property on Orlando’s Church St., over twice the appraised value. The city can’t go any higher, Dyer maintains.
"Asking or demanding fifty times the fair market value for a piece of property, that's just not fair to the taxpayers," Dyer said.
Faith Deliverance Temple Pastor LeAndrew Shack doesn’t agree that the price offered is satisfactory to cover the costs of moving the facility.
"That wouldn't even be enough to rebuild what we have, at what it costs today," Shack said. "How is that fair?"
The dispute arose in November after the minor league Orlando City Soccer Club was granted an expansion franchise by Major League Soccer. The city has to build a stadium before the franchise can be enacted, and for that to happen, the city must first buy up all the land. After doling out $8.3 million for most of the land last year, two properties held out. The city filed eminent domain actions—and the church is the only piece that is yet to fold.
The church is located in the Parramore neighborhood, a predominately African-American community with high poverty and joblessness rates. Constructions of other city venues in the area, such as the Orlando Arena, didn’t benefit residents, they say.
The mayor says he understands the sensitivity of the situation.
"Knowing there could be that perception, the mayor wanted to speak with [the Council of Clergy] and get their guidance on this situation," said the mayor’s aide, Heather Fagan.
While the tension continues between the church owners and the mayor’s office, soccer fans are gearing up for a stadium with “the most intense atmosphere” and “the best stadium location” of the whole MLS, according to Orlando City soccer team president, Phil Rawlins.
But in the words of Glendy Hamilton, a pastor at another church in Parramore, "a soccer field is not more important than a church.”