April 21, 2005
To: Mayor Ernest Page (or current office occupant)
cc: The Orlando City Commission
From: Rick Schreiber, publisher, Orlando Weekly
Subject: What to do with the Centroplex
Dear Mayor Page:
We've read with much excitement the city's proposals to redevelop the 60 acres of city-owned land known as the Centroplex and use the money from development to finance a renovation of the TD Waterhouse Centre, ostensibly to provide a suitable new home for the Orlando Magic. With the extensive developments being built downtown, this is a time of great promise for The City Beautiful.
As Orlando's premier alternative publication, Orlando Weekly would like to continue growing with this burgeoning metropolis. We've been here since 1983, and we've provided an alternative voice since 1995. No city of any size is without a robust alternative newsweekly these days, Mr. Mayor; Des Moines has two.
Given that the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has no plans to license any expansion alternatives in the near future, and that cities across the country are clamoring to become "hip," the value of existing alternative publication franchises is increasing exponentially. In striving to meet the demand for alternative sources of information, however, we are somewhat hampered by our outmoded facilities. Our current office, built in 1920, is the oldest nonrenovated workspace of any AAN publication. The lack of midlevel corporate box seating and a retractable roof are the most pressing issues.
We won't be coy, Mayor Page: We've been courted by other cities that seek to brand themselves as "real" cities, "destination" cities, "urban" cities. Titusville and Palatka have both put very attractive offers on the table.
But we are Orlando Weekly; our hearts and homes are in The City Beautiful. We want to stay here, and with the city's support, we can and we will.
Like the Magic, Orlando Weekly is a private, for-profit business. And like the Magic, we employ talented professionals whose skill, very much on public display, brings pride and notoriety to the city. (Unlike the Magic, we win sometimes: five AAN awards last year, Mr. Mayor.)
We feel Orlando Weekly is just as deserving - perhaps more so - of public support than the Magic. Orlando would clearly suffer at the loss of either. But we bring art, culture, news and entertainment - at a price everyone can afford - to the city 52 weeks a year. The Magic play seven months of the year, they're out of town as often as not, and admission is not free.
Therefore, Mayor, before discussions with the Magic go any further, please review our proposal on the following pages. We call it The OrlandoWeeklyPlex. Analysts hired by our firm - chosen for their independence and knowledge of the alternative publication industry - have determined that The OrlandoWeeklyPlex can be built at a cost of approximately $411 million. We are willing to underwrite $12,708 of the estimated total, leaving a balance of $410,987,292, an amount that could easily be covered by the city and Orange County through the use of the tourist tax, the sale of bonds, tax-increment financing, or the sale of the Orlando Utilities Commission.
We look forward to discussing this matter in greater depth with you and the city council at your earliest convenience.
ORLANDO WEEKLY OFFICES
Located on the top floor of the Ace's High Casino tower, the Weekly
's offices will include luxurious, midlevel skybox seating so fans of the paper can watch the staff in action. A retractable roof is also included in the plans.
ACE'S HIGH CASINO
Ace's High will be Central Florida's premier gaming establishment, offering an array of gambling options, shows and drink specials to boost the area's tourism base. Our analysis indicates a downtown casino possible only if the current Centroplex is declared a tribal homeland will pump more than $2 billion into the local economy annually, and help Orlando compete with Las Vegas for tourist dollars. This would be part of a new overall marketing strategy, tentatively taglined "What happens in Orlando goes on the Internet."
Situated on the ground floor of the Ace's High Casino tower will be the Acme 53, the largest multiplex movie theater in the southeastern United States by one screen. We've incorporated three floors of digital, surround-sound, big-screen theaters that will attract the top mainstream and independent films.
THE WEEKLY LIVE
The Weekly Live is a 2,400-person venue designed to draw large crowds to downtown by featuring the best in mainstream and independent music. Artists who have already expressed an interest in booking the venue include .38 Special, Subset, Jay-Z, Eugene Chadbourne and the guy from Soul Asylum.
A themed restaurant on the 34th floor of the Weekly Live tower, this rotating eatery enables patrons still mourning the loss of The Intimidator to be physically closer to their fallen hero.
The OrlandoWeeklyPlex features more than 176,000 square feet of office condominium space, sure to lure businesses across the country to the heart of Orlando. Space is available for lease in the Ace's High Casino tower and in Big D's Gentlemen's Club tower. Tenants expressing an interest in the space pre-construction include the Lamb of God Church of Christ, Sal's Pizza and Calzones, and Microsoft.
The Lakes at The Woods at The WeeklyPlex offers owners and tenants a luxurious downtown lifestyle. Perched in the top floors of the world-class Weekly Live auditorium, The Lakes at The Woods at The WeeklyPlex will cater to a desirable demographic of young, urban professionals seeking a car-free lifestyle. We've planned 413 units for sale at prices starting in the high $400,000 range for an efficiency, to $1.3 million for a two-bedroom along with three rental units priced at $600 a month that enable The Lakes at The Woods at The WeeklyPlex to qualify for HUD mixed-income development funds. We've seen enormous interest in this kind of downtown living, and have preliminary commitments from 11 buyers and three renters.
BIG D'S GENTLEMEN'S CLUB
Spread across three floors, Big D's will offer patrons a variety of dancers, private rooms, novelty toys, drink specials and a steak buffet served 24 hours a day at very affordable prices.
ON STRIKE BOWLING ALLEY
The bottom floor of The OrlandoWeeklyPlex offers a 112-lane bowling experience, sure to become a tourist attraction in and of itself. From cheap daytime games to midnight bowling, On Strike offers a casual atmosphere at the base of one of the United States' most sophisticated entertainment complexes while providing a boost to unions across the country.
THE CARROT TOP ARENA AT THE ORLANDOWEEKLYPLEX
Replacing the dated TD Waterhouse Centre, The Carrot Top Arena at The OrlandoWeeklyPlex is named for Orlando's favorite son, of course, though corporate naming rights could help defray construction costs and should be considered. Smaller than the TD Waterhouse Centre, The Carrot Top Arena will seat 7,000 fans in reclining leather chairs with built-in massage functionality. Our research has shown that smaller, more intimate arenas are the future of public events, providing lower operating and construction costs that enable cities to successfully book niche events. The Carrot Top Arena will perfectly accommodate proven crowd-pleasing events such as monster truck rallies, Promise Keepers gatherings and Orlando Predators games.