ORLANDO – Last year, Mayor Buddy Dyer announced his vision of creating a new stadium in downtown Orlando, which would serve as the home for the city’s soccer franchise, Orlando City Soccer, starting in 2016.
At 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16, the city moves a step closer to making that idea a reality when a groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the Downtown Soccer Stadium.
The city is encouraging the public to attend the event, which will be held on the property at the northwest corner of Church Street and Parramore Avenue. Orlando City Soccer is likewise encouraging fans to attend and make some noise.
“October 16 will be a landmark day for the community of Parramore, the city of Orlando, Orange County, our fans and our club,” noted Orlando City President Phil Rawlins.
He promised a major event to officially welcome the start of construction work on the Downtown Soccer Stadium that, once completed, will offer a 20,000-seat, state-of-the-art venue.
“We look forward to hosting an unforgettable, festive celebration to mark the ceremonial start of construction of what will be the best soccer stadium in the league,” Rawlins said.
The stadium will be designed to host Major League Soccer events, and will become the permanent home to Orlando City Soccer, starting with the 2016 MLS season.
The stadium will also be in an urban downtown that already includes the Amway Center, and will become the home to the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which opens in November across the street from City Hall.
Dyer praised the location, saying it will provide an economic boost to downtown, and in particular the Parramore area.
“We are entrusted to be stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar and this new location will save the City money with a definitive schedule,” the mayor said. “This new site also allows for a larger footprint for the stadium, additional parking and opportunity for redevelopment.”
Plans for the $110 million stadium hit a snag when a family-owned Parramore church, Faith Deliverance Temple, announced it would fight the city’s efforts to take the property by eminent domain. It was the only property resisting the city’s efforts to take possession of the land needed for the stadium.
Faith Deliverance even announced it was a hiring a law firm based in Jacksonville that specialized in eminent domain fights.
Instead, the city decided to drop the eminent domain case and relocate the stadium. Commissioners then voted to have the stadium location shifted to the west to free up two large parcels of land nearby for infill commercial development and affordable housing construction, the city noted. Dyer predicted those developments would bring new business opportunities and jobs to the economically depressed Parramore neighborhood.
Orlando City Soccer, which is overseeing the development and construction of the new stadium, said it plans to form a committee made up of community leaders in Parramore – including City Commissioner Regina Hill and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando — to help the stadium designers find ways to incorporate unique elements of the community into the facility.
Orlando City Soccer Club, recently ranked 14th among all professional teams in North America, will begin playing in MLS in 2015, becoming the league’s 21st club.
Orlando City has won three USL PRO regular season titles and two postseason championships.
This is not the only piece of news for the city’s sports fans. On Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m., Dyer will join Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and representatives of Florida Citrus Sports to cut the ribbon to open the new Orlando Citrus Bowl.
Three days later, on Saturday, Nov. 22, the annual Florida Blue Florida Classic — when the Florida A&M University Rattlers take on the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats for the 69th time — will be the first event hosted in the newly-reconstructed stadium.
After 10 months of new construction on the historic stadium, the project will have replaced 90 percent of the facility. The reconstruction work incorporated the latest technology into a facility that is now the region’s largest sports venue.
The new Citrus Bowl will continue to host signature events including Orlando’s historic bowl games, the annual Florida Blue Florida Classic and Monster Jam, while also becoming host to events like college football games, NFL preseason matchups, and concerts.
The Florida Citrus Bowl has been one of the region’s oldest and most historic properties. Construction on the stadium started in 1936 during the Great Depression, as a project of the Works Progress Administration that had been launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Built to the east of the Tinker Field baseball park — which had opened in 1914 — the stadium officially opened later in 1936. The first college football game played there on Jan. 1, 1947, when Catawba defeated Maryville by a score of 31–6.
Between 1999 and 2002, the stadium was renovated to include contour seating, two escalators, and the 107-foot wide video screen, along with a new sound system.
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