Orlando City SC hosted its second Media Day of the 2015 preseason and the first at the newly refurbished Citrus Bowl. The stadium itself is decked out in purple, with Orlando City logos and word marks everywhere.
Those in attendance watched Head Coach Adrian Heath put his team through a training session, and afterwards there were opportunities to ask questions of Heath, City ownership and players.
"Welcome to a severe Florida winter," quipped Founder and President Phil Rawlins to kick off the press conference portion of Media Day. "This is a great week in Orlando City's history."
With that, it was wall-to-wall media availability for TV, radio, print and online outlets from several countries.
Here are the highlights from Media Day:
- Rawlins announced that 2,000 more tickets for Sunday's opener will be available on Ticketmaster today. These tickets are standing-room-only passes for the Citrus Bowl's North Terrace. The extra 2,000 tickets are expected to sell and take Sunday's attendance to 62,000.
- "We're delighted that we've got such a great fan base and tremendous supporters that want to fill 62,000 seats for us on Sunday to witness this historic event," Rawlins told reporters. "I think 62,000 would put us in the top three or four opening day attendances ever in the history of MLS and certainly in the top 10 attendances ever for an MLS game. Thank you to all our fans for the support that helped make that possible."
- Walt Disney World Resort became a founding sponsor with a multi-year partnership announced today. Under the agreement, which, as Lions owner Flavio Augusto da Silva said, "brings two iconic brands together," Disney becomes the official resort destination, cruise line and vacation club of the club. Disney also will have a significant home presence at the Citrus Bowl (their signage is already hanging in the stadium), and there will be more collaboration on soccer events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
- "We at Disney are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this crazy soccer fever that has now taken hold of Central Florida," said Maribeth Bisienere, Senior Vice President of Downtown Disney, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Waterparks. "It's a great partnership for us for a number of different reasons."
- Rawlins was again very upbeat when asked about a potential MLS players strike. "We sincerely believe that a deal will get done," he said. "We're looking forward to that happening in the next few hours, if not days, to ensure that we'll play on Sunday and that's what we're working towards."
- "This is not about a weekend or a week or a month," said Rawlins. "It's about the future of the game, where this game is going and where the city of Orlando is going with this franchise. Our view is the long view."
- Rawlins said the team will be monitoring the ticket data moving forward to determine if additional Citrus Bowl seating will need to be opened for future games and also how that will affect construction plans for the new downtown soccer specific stadium.
- Speaking of the soccer stadium, Rawlins gave an update on that: "A lot of work that's been going on the last few weeks is the work that you kind of don't see when the building's gone up - it's all foundation work, ground work. The retention pond filling is actually quite a complex scenario. So that's been a lengthy process. We're getting to a point in the next few weeks when we can start to excavate."
- Rawlins talked about the second home game against Vancouver Whitecaps on March 21 is capped at 20,000 tickets and is almost sold out already.
- Flavio Augusto da Silva mentioned that hundreds of tickets for the opener were sold in Brazil through tourist agencies to soccer fans who are coming to Orlando expressly to see the match against New York City FC. Rawlins added that the game will be broadcast in England on Sky Sports and in Brazil as well.
- "We had a good session this morning," Heath said. "It's nice to be back in the Citrus Bowl. To see the transformation is fantastic. The players are excited as am I. Hopefully we can do the city proud like they've done us with the turnout here."
- As to the CBA negotiations, Heath said, "I'm just hoping that common sense prevails. I'm sure it will. We're preparing as though we're playing at five o'clock on Sunday."
- Heath said the only player who is ruled out for duty Sunday is striker Martin Paterson, who has a hamstring injury.
- Both Kaká and Brek Shea said that Kevin Molino and Cristian Higuita were players that have impressed them throughout this preseason.
- Central defender Seb Hines says he's finding his way around Orlando and is excited to be here. He had previously come to Orlando as a kid and is excited to be part of what the Lions are building. "It's a good opportunity to establish myself as an MLS player," said Hines.
- Hines said he was told by players in England such as Kei Kamara -- now with Columbus Crew SC -- that MLS was a quality league.