By MIKE GRAMAJO
ORLANDO, Fla. — It may have been just a symbolic step, but the first shovels moving dirt for a new soccer stadium was enough to bring out thousands of fans eager to witness Orlando City Soccer Club break ground on a downtown soccer stadium.
“I’m so delighted to get the stadium built for the fans,” said Orlando City president Phil Rawlins. “We made a commitment from day one to be competitive. We’ve been competitive in the minor leagues. I expect us to be just as competitive in the major leagues. We’ll be ready to go for March of 2015. Construction will take around 15 months, so we’re ahead of schedule.”
The yet-to-be named facility, which will cost $110 million, is expected to be completed just in time for the 2016 MLS season and will seat 19,500 fans with room to expand in the future. OCSC will play the 2015 season at a renovated Citrus Bowl Stadium, which is undergoing a facelift in preparation.
Rawlins confirmed to SBI that the club plans to cap the attendance at the Citrus Bowl to 19,500 to mirror the new soccer stadium and prevent customer service issues regarding season ticket holders.
“If you take a look at the number of people that came out (today), they’re in their purple and scarves, their connected to this team, and they haven’t played a game in Major League Soccer yet,” said MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott. “If you can just envision when this stadium opens, we’ll have a march to the match every week. What they’re doing down here is tremendous.”
Renderings of the facility were released in May. The stadium was designed by Populous, the architecture firm behind Sporting KC’s Sporting Park and Yankee Stadium.