Just ten short days remain until Major League Soccer’s newest member, Orlando City SC, will break ground on its brand new stadium in downtown Orlando. The new ground is slated to open in time to begin the 2016 MLS season.
Thursday, Oct. 16 is the official date, and the party kicks off at 5:30 p.m. City fans and local dignitaries, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, will meet at Church Street Station and hold a game day-style march to the stadium site. No official word yet from the club whether any players or coach Adrian Heath will attend, but it’s a safe bet that there will be at least a few familiar faces there for the loyal fans.
“October 16 will be a landmark day for the community of Parramore, the City of Orlando, Orange County, our fans and our Club,” said Orlando City President and Founder Phil Rawlins. “We look forward to hosting an unforgettable, festive celebration to mark the ceremonial start of construction of what will be the best soccer stadium in the league.”
Orlando played the majority of their home matches this past season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near the Disney Campus. The grounds proved hospitable for City, if not quite imposing. Generally a pleasant experience for the fans, this writer’s main complaint revolved around the location of the press box. (Seriously, who thought directly behind the corner flag would be a good place for a press box at a soccer pitch?)
Of course, many will remember that from their first season in Orlando in 2011 through 2013, the Lions played at the old Citrus Bowl (Later Fifth Third Bank Field). They’ll have a homecoming of sorts in 2015, as the Lions will play their first MLS season in a remodeled Citrus Bowl while the new soccer-specific stadium is constructed.
Orlando locals will certainly have noticed the massive remodeling that the Citrus bowl underwent this summer. It was an odd sight, driving down the 408. Your guess is as good as mine on how well the updated stadium will serve City. If the renderings of the $200 million renovation are any indication though, it will be a major revamp. It’s perhaps unlikely that Orlando will need the massive stadium’s upper deck for much of the season, but ownership will certainly be angling for an opening week sellout.
As for the actual MLS stadium, it appears that everything is largely on track for City to open the downtown, soccer-only, 20,000 seat facility in time for the 2016 season.
That all kicks off next week, with the march to the ground breaking. Bring the drums, bring the horns, and come dressed in purple from head to toe. This is a chance that Orlando City fans should relish to let Orlando know that this is now a soccer town.
SCHEDULE: Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 (All times tentative)
5:30 p.m. – Festivities begin at Church Street Station
6:00 p.m. – Fans and dignitaries gather
6:15 p.m. – March begins from Church Street to groundbreaking site
6:40 p.m. – Jones H.S. Band welcomes marchers at site
6:45 p.m. – Groundbreaking event begins – comments from officials
7:20 p.m. – Ceremonial dig, photo opportunity
7:30 p.m. – Fan participation, b-roll and photo opportunity
7:40 p.m. – Post-groundbreaking street party at Church Street Station