Orlando City will fund its new downtown soccer-specific stadium privately and will be the owners and operators, club owner Flávio Augusto da Silva announced at Orlando's City Hall. The club will also buy back the stadium land from the city of Orlando, and both the city ($15MM) and Orange County ($20MM) are off the hook for millions of dollars they had pledged to the project.
"We'll fund this project 100% privately," said da Silva. "This is a big signal of how we believe in this city, how we believe in this community, how we believe in this marketplace and these fans."
Da Silva said the plan is to be ready for play "in the summer of 2016."
"Summer" means the club plans to start the season in the Citrus Bowl and move into the new stadium mid-season.
In addition, the team will build the stadium larger than originally intended, with a capacity between 25,000 and 28,000, as opposed to the original plan for a 19,500-seat stadium. The change comes as a result of attendance numbers swelling higher than expected in the club's inaugural season. The Lions are averaging more than 37,000 fans per game in their inaugural season.
"19,000 seats is not enough. We are much bigger than that," said da Silva. "I'm very happy to announce for you today that we are very focused on building a new stadium with between 25,000 and 28,000 seats. That's going to be our new house."
"Our fans deserve nothing but the best and that's what this stadium will give them," said Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins. "This stadium will put Orlando City in the top three in capacity."
Rawlins added that the club will continue to be committed to the spirit of the stadium blueprint and to preserving the heritage of the Parramore district.
Other notes from today's presser:
- Orlando City will also compensate the city for the water retention project that has been done, according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
- Direct economic benefit across Central Florida has been a 20% increase in area hotels when the club has a game on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, said Dyer.
- The stadium will bring in property taxes, generating revenue for the city of Orlando.
- Fans of Orlando City have traveled from 49 different states and 64 different countries to see the Lions play in person, according to a club press release.
- Rawlins said the club will celebrate today's news at tomorrow's game against Columbus Crew SC, with $5 Heinekens, a special discount on merchandise for both season ticket holders and non-season ticket holders, and all music played in the stadium will be by fan request.