By MIKE GRAMAJO
After receiving the go-ahead to build a soccer-specific stadium that should make way for a Major League Soccer franchise in central Florida, Orlando City Soccer Club announced on Tuesday that they will play at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex for the upcoming 2014 USL Pro season.
The move to a new stadium was necessary as their most recent home, the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, will go under a $200 million renovation for much of the next calendar year. Unlike the Citrus Bowl, Orlando City’s new home will have a grass surface.
“We look forward to next year’s possibilities before hopefully heading into MLS for the 2015 season,” Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said in statement on the team’s website. “With professional sporting event experience, premier soccer fields, and world-class amenities, this facility will enable us to play all of our home games in one location and in a venue where our fans will be closer to our players than ever before.”
The Wide World of Sports Complex, which serves as an athletic complex in the Walt Disney World Resort area, will look to expand to a capacity of 5,200 seats. In addition to now housing Orlando City, the complex is also the home for Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves during spring training. The complex is also the winter home of Italian club AS Roma, which signed a six-year contract with the site in 2012.
The site also plays host to the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, which Orlando City took part in last February along with six MLS clubs and the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.
Last month, the Orange County board of Commissioners voted to complete funding for an $80 million downtown soccer stadium, which also put the Lions into final negotiations with MLS.
While 2014 looks to be the final year for Orlando City playing in USL Pro, the temporary home in Disney World will only last one year before the team likely joins MLS in 2015 as the league’s 21st expansion franchise.
What do you think of this news? Do you see the Wide World of Sports complex as an ideal temporary home for the Lions? Can’t wait for them to move into their new stadium?
Share your thoughts below.