Welcome, or welcome back, to Our City! After a year hiatus I’m excited to relaunch this column. With this reboot of Our City, as with the original, it is my goal to provide the perspective of a wide-angled lens on the culture of Orlando City and Major League Soccer.
There is a quote I’ve always carried with me, taken from the collected journals of a young photojournalist, Dan Eldon, who died covering the early stages of the Somali War. “The journey is the destination.” Over the years, these words have reminded me to both savor the small steps of a longer path and that no matter how satisfying any single moment might feel, it is only a flash in a longer, more important narrative.
Orlando City will take another important step March 5 on a journey that began back in 2010. The opening of the club’s beautiful self-funded downtown soccer-specific stadium culminates years of work. You have undoubtedly seen the Orlando City PR department hyping the moment with the hashtag #ComingHome. Against odds, setbacks, and the monumental task that surrounds such a massive project, Orlando City has built a cathedral to soccer in the heart of the City Beautiful. As a soccer fan, as a citizen, this is a moment to savor.
The importance of soccer-specific stadiums has been touted for decades now as MLS has tried to grow the game in the United States. Locally, the stadium cements Orlando City into the geographic fabric of the landscape. Our upstart team, which forced its way onto the league’s expansion map, is no longer just a tenant in a football stadium. We no longer have to endure the artificial grass and scheduling demands forced upon us by a city-owned facility. The supporters will notice an instant difference. The intimate surrounds will lend themselves to how soccer is experienced as a spectator sport.
This will be a place that many of us consider a home over the years. We will make memories with our friends and our families here. This is going to be something special for each one of us in our own way.
You’ll forgive Phil, Flavio, Kay, and company a victory lap. Like each milestone, this moment should be celebrated and savored.
Without taking anything away from the moment, we have to remember this is a moment. Orlando City has checked off one more impressive feat off a list of the must-do’s to launch a club. That term “launch” is crucial. Despite two pedestrian seasons in MLS, we are still building something here.
Our club’s history has played a part in the narrative we live by as supporters. There has been a new noise from fans wanting people like me to stop “dwelling in the USL days.” The reactions to the off-season departures of Luke Boden and Kevin Molino, the last links to those lower league glory days, brought that debate up once again.
That debate made me take a good long look at my nostalgia. Each of these steps forward has its own emotion. The grand ones, like opening a new stadium, are easy to celebrate, while cutting links with the past feel like necessary growing pains. Perhaps now that we’re #ComingHome, the best way Orlando City can honor the past, and honor the supporters who helped make this dream come true, is to win trophies in the future.
It really is a beautiful building, but it needs some decoration.
I’d love to hear your take on what the new Orlando City Stadium means to you or your perspective of what it means to the club. Connect with me on Twitter: @KevinIsHistory or comment below. I’ll see you in the stands!