The new privately funded, 25,500-seat capacity Orlando City soccer stadium could be opened by the end of next season, club owner Phil Rawlins said Friday during a press conference that unveiled what the stadium will look like.
The stadium, which will be the third largest in MLS, was upgraded to 25,500 seats after ownership decided to make the $155 million project a privately funded one nearly two months ago.
The season ticket cap for the new facility increased to 18,000 to encourage more fans to buy season tickets early. The 25,500 seats are nearly 6,000 less than the club averages in attendance per home game this season at the Citrus Bowl, so demand will be high for tickets to the new venue. However, Rawlins doesn't anticipate there to be large ticket price hikes due to the lesser supply.
"Get your season tickets early," Rawlins said. "That is the cheapest way to watch the games and obviously the best way to reserve your seat."
In the original renderings of the stadium with around 19,000 seats, the stadium was three-sided with an opening on Church Street and a large rotating lion. After deciding to increase the stadium capacity, plans for the rotating lion appear to have been nixed for now, though Rawlins said the lion could be outside the VIP entrance. The stadium is also four-sided now, with roofs covering all four sides. Three corners are filled with seating, with the lone exception being the corner with the large scoreboard.
The field surface itself will be grass, as confirmed in today's presser. The plan was always for it to be grass.
"The players wanted grass," Rawlins said. The Lions' founder and president added that grass increases the opportunities for other events in the stadium, such as rugby and lacrosse, as well such as international soccer matches. One of the other events could potentially be an MLS All-Star Game, which may be possible in the not-too-distant future.
"When I was up in Denver, I was talking to the commissioner about how quickly we could get the All-Star Game here," Rawlins said. "Obviously we would want it to be in the new stadium, so I would expect maybe 2018 or 2019 at the latest we would see an MLS All-Star Game here."
Rawlins said there will be 31 premium suites, as ownership tried to maximize the premium seating capacity. More than half of those premium suites have been reserved, Rawlins added.
Along with the stadium, Orlando City reserved 10-12 acres outside the structure to host as a fan zone to enhance the fan experience. Details about what that fan zone would entail weren't clear, though it may be one of the few places to tailgate near the new stadium. Rawlins said fans will probably still find a way to tailgate elsewhere.
The stadium will not feature a parking garage because the club wants to encourage fans to use public transportation.
"We're happy we've got 16,500 parking spaces within one mile of the stadium," Rawlins said. "More than enough existing infrastructure."
Rawlins did add there will be VIP parking on-site.
To enhance the fan experience, Rawlins said there will be a way for visitors in certain parts of the stadium to order food or drinks on their smart phones. There will also be a safe standing section on the north end.
While we won't see the skeleton of the stadium going up until the end of the 2015 or the beginning of 2016, Rawlins said he expects the stadium to be open within 12-14 months, which would be toward the end of the regular season and into the start of playoffs next season.
More features of the new stadium:
- 425,000 square-foot multi-purpose stadium
- Increased capacity of approximately 25,500 seats -- added seating in the corners of the stadium and in the South end
- A canopy roof covering the North, East, South and West stands
- Enhanced premium amenities in the East stands
- 31 suites, including a 90-person "super suite" and a 59-person group suite
- 8,400 square-foot indoor Club in the West stand
- 10,000 square-foot open air Supporters Terrace
- 360-degree concourse with additional concessions and fan amenities for a premier fan experience
- All-natural grass playing surface eight feet below grade
Construction on the stadium will require:
- 4,800 tons of steel and 1,000 tons of rebar -- equal to more than 25 Statues of Liberty
- 20,000 cubic yards of concrete -- enough to fill six Olympic-sized swimming pools
- 900 construction jobs generated.