|Citrus Bowl with Orlando City Enhancements|
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The Lion's Den
It's a big ticket item sure, but having spent several days and nights at the Citrus Bowl for football and soccer games there is one thing that always stands out; it's a cinder block. When you drive on State Road 408 past the stadium you see a giant, life-less concrete block; no personality, no character. The master plan for the stadium has some fairly significant improvements to the exterior of the venue, but what could we do in the short term? The plan is to use a series of tensioned sail shades over the south end (supporters section) of the grandstands. The shades serve two important purposes, both of which help improve the atmosphere and increase revenue. The first benefit is it provides a faux ceiling over the supporters section making what is already a loud venue even louder. The second benefit is that it acts as a giant welcome mat for the team and the stadium. It is also a billboard for the tens of thousands of people who past the stadium everyday and may not realize a professional soccer team lives there. It makes you curious, you want to know what's going on under that canopy and I can imagine some well placed lighting would make for a beautiful scene at night. The cost, roughly in the $500k-$750k range based on the need for support columns and the size of the sails. The existing upper deck and ramp structures might be able to be re-used for anchor points which could reduce the cost. The other benefit is that the shades are completely removable in the fall/winter for when the stadium converts from soccer back into football games. If the budget could be stretched further there's no reason why these removable tension sails couldn't also be used along the sideline/midfield seats as well.
Tarp the Upper Decks
Probably the simplest enhancement to the Citrus Bowl for the team would be to use tarps to cover the seats in the upper deck to reduce the feeling of a giant empty stadium during matches. The team already does a great job by limiting seating to the lower bowl, but imagine having a nice visual in the sky above with the team logo and team colors. Much like the sail shade mentioned previously, the upper decks are visible from the 408 and the tarps will act as billboards to attract new fans to the stadium. The Seattle Sounders are an example of effective use of tarps where they have placed team and sponsor logos across the upper decks of CenturyLink Field. The New England Revolution are an example of poor use of tarps where the giant plain blue tarps have turned the inside of Gillette Stadium into a fish tank. The cost, somewhere between $100k-$150k based on the fabric used and the printing of logos.
One of the biggest problems with the Citrus Bowl is the lack of luxury suites and that's not something that can be solved with a million dollars. When the master plan for the stadium is carried out new suites will be worked into the mid-level sidelines and potentially could be added above the south end seats, but at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. In the meantime the team could purchase/rent three to five large tents and place them on elevated platforms at the northend of the stadium. The platform would prevent shots from taken out patrons as well as offer a better angle for viewing the rest of the field. They would also need to be low enough to make sure they don't block the video and score board at that end of the stadium. The tents would have the team logo and alternating Orlando red and purple colors, again enhancing the atmosphere for fans. The area can be setup for an "all you can eat" ticket like Seattle and other MLS teams use to fill less desirable sections of the stadium. They could also be spruced up with patio furniture, fire pits, to make more of an ultra lounge area for groups looking to rent out the spaces. The key is to find a way to offer a higher-end corporate experience to companies and large groups that want to attend matches. It's a bit of a gamble, but it's wasted space otherwise that could generate revenue and bring in fringe soccer fans. The price tag would be similar to the tarps, $100k-$150k for the tents and running temporary power and water lines to the area.
So if I had a million dollars (and you know I do) to throw at the Citrus Bowl that is how I would use it to make improvements. What are your thoughts? How would you improve the atmosphere at the stadium while doing it on a budget? Let us know in the comment section below and stay tuned for more Orlando City coverage all season long!