ORLANDO – On Tuesday, Orlando kicked off the new year by hosting the Capital One Bowl game at the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium, attracting a crowd of more than 62,000 people to watch the Georgia Bulldogs overcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers by a score of 45-31 that took the game into overtime.
That could be the last time that local football fans watch a game at the Citrus Bowl – at least in its current stae, anyway.
The stadium that seats 70,000 people is gearing up now for a major reconstruction project that will bring down the old to make way for the new. On Wednesday, the City of Orlando, which owns the Florida Citrus Bowl, added a stadium “reconstruction procurement process” to its website, asking for bids for the redesign and reconstruction of a stadium that dates back to 1936, when it had a capacity of just 8,900 seats.
The city is also looking to hire a program manager to assist on this reconstruction project.
It will be a serious face-lift for the historic Citrus Bowl, said Allen Johnson, Orlando’s venues director.
“We’re really calling it a reconstruction rather than a renovation project,” Johnson said. “This is basically taking the lower 200 levels built in 1936 and demolishing it and replacing it with a new seating bowl that includes new restrooms and new concession stands. The only renovation work is some waterproofing on the 300 level. We’re also adding new vertical transportation escalators and hoping to redefine the outside of the stadium for curb appeal and to modernize the appearance of the Citrus Bowl.”
That history dates back by quite a few decades. The first college football game played there was on Jan. 1, 1947.
Times have changed, Johnson said, and the Cirtus Bowl needs major changes as well.
“The long range plan of the city is to keep us in the bowl game business, but also get new business like NFL games and help us attract outdoor concerts and the return of Wrestlemania,” he said. “We want this reconstruction work to make us competitive for those types of events.”
Proposals for the reconstruction project need to be submitted to the City’s Purchasing and Materials Management Division by Jan. 16 at 2 p.m.
“That’s why we call it reconstruction,” Johnson said. “We hate the word renovation. It’s not what we’re doing.
I know it’s an existing venue, but the work is reconstruction.”
The city is hoping to select a project manager by Feb. 4.
“We’re looking for a small firm or large firm that has bench talent for us to add to our team,” Johnson said. “We need a technological consultant. We don’t want that full time, but we want to be able to say ‘We need this resoruce, can you procure this resource for us?’ ”
The city also released some early architectural renderings of the outside of the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, suggesting different options for what the reconstruction project could accomplish.
“These renderings are the first step in the design process and do not yet account for cost or final design elements,” the site notes.
The city is estimating that the construction phase will begin in the third quarter of this year, with the work completed by December 2014.
“The bulk of the work will occur in 2014,” Johnson said, adding that it should be done in such a way that popular sports events can still go on as scheduled.
“At this point, we believe that all the work being done will be done in a time frame that allows it to stay open,” he said. “The only group we may have to relocate in 2014 is the soccer teams.”
In addition to being home to the Capital One Bowl, the Florida Citrus Bowl hosts the Russell Athletic Bowl, Florida Classic (Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University), Monster Jam and 2011 USL Pro Soccer Champions with the Orlando City Lions.
This reconstruction project is part of a larger effort to bring new community venues to downtown. That’s included the new Amway Center, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts building now under construction.
The Citrus Bowl stadium has undergone renovations numerous times in the past. In 1952, 2,000 seats were added, and in 1968, 5,000 more seats, plus its first press box.
Between 1974 and 1976, the capacity was elevated to 52,000, and then 65,438 by 1989, following a $38 million renovation that added upper decks.
Through 2002, new improvements included the addition of contour seating, two escalators, and the 107-foot wide video screen and new sound system.
In 2010, the city completed the first phase of renovations to the aging Citrus Bowl, with improvements that included structural work and new lighting.
Last June, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs unveiled a plan for the rest of the Florida Citrus Bowl renovations.
To learn more, log on to Orlando venues , a website serving as the primary source for the latest information, documents, news, scheduling and bidding related to the renovations.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.