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Club President Phil Rawlins opened Thursday's #FillTheBowl campaign press conference saying: "Today we are standing on the verge of history..."
Normally when people mix sports and history I get a little defensive. Sports announcers and news media columnists, searching for ways to fill broadcasts and lines of text turn to this easy trope time and time again. A couple of extra assists, a star player on a good night, or a big win against a rival is enough to begin exclaiming that we've all been a witness to history. Trust me, its always great to see a powerful sports moment, but it's hardly the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In Rawlins' case however, I think he is absolutely appropriate in his declaration that we do stand on the verge of history. That history is local and absolutely important to every person in Central Florida. Everything is about to change, and we are standing collectively on that threshold. Orlando as a city won't be the same on March 9 as it was just a day before.
Filling the bowl won't set any of the Citrus Bowl's attendance records, as attendance caps at 61,348 after the recent upgrades. That is short of the soccer record of 62,387 set at the 1994 World Cup game between Belgium and the Netherlands. The yearly college football bowl games often bring hefty crowds to the stadium (although not many sellouts).
What a capacity crowd means on March 8, 2015, when Orlando City SC takes the field against New York City FC is this: for the first time in the history of the city of Orlando, over 60,000 of its citizens will be cheering for our team, our city.
The Orlando Magic have enjoyed excellent runs, selling out their arena, and we've all enjoyed the years the team pushed deep into the playoffs. The city rallied behind them, and rightfully so. Only 18,000 fans have ever come together for a Magic game. How many of us watched those great Orlando sports moments from a television, unable to get in?
On March 8, we can all be there.
That is historic.
No matter how the rest of the season goes, no matter if we even win our first game, we have an opportunity to all take part in an event that will live as a part of this city's cultural heritage for generations.
Not only that, it will be broadcast around the world. That's right, our much maligned city beautiful can show the rest of the nation that Orlando is more than theme parks and weird "Florida Man" news stories. Our first night in MLS we can show the rest of MLS why we are the "soccer capital of the south." While Miami's MLS venture tries to figure itself out and Atlanta's front office is off recording soccer fans to pipe into their stadium come 2017, Orlando will (hopefully) be kicking off to the sound of 60,000 plus purple clad fans in a cauldron of noise.
We can show a world full of gridlocked, dysfunctional governments that our city and country leaders can actually work with its local business community to both rebuild a historic Citrus Bowl stadium and build a new soccer specific stadium; that, in a landscape of sports customers, our soccer club listens to its supporters and puts them at the base of their operations.
This is an idealistic moment. Savor it.
No doubt, this space will soon be filled with critiques of misfiring strikers and a-step-too-slow defenders, of goalkeeping controversies and coaching crises. For now, that should all wait.
Take this moment, enjoy the preseason, and #FillTheBowl March 8. It is going to be historic.