Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Orlando City Stadium Site?

Potential Site of Orlando City Stadium
(Click to Enlarge - Images Courtesy of
Google Earth and Houston Dynamo)
In the last few weeks we have had two important articles on Orlando City Soccer Club's efforts to find a suitable location for a soccer specific stadium (SSS) in the downtown area to aid in their effort to gain an expansion franchise in Major League Soccer (MLS).

The first article was a stadium concept investigation using a portion of the proposed downtown Creative Village at the site of the old Amway Arena for a stadium. The second article was an interview with Orlando City owner Phil Rawlins where we discussed potential sites and ruled out other locations including the Creative Village and the University of Central Florida area.

After having some of the above mentioned locations shot down by Phil, I went back to the drawing board and started to look for another site downtown that might fit the bill. Now I am not saying this is the definitive site for the team's stadium, but when I asked Phil for some feedback he said he could not comment due to the nature of discussions with the city and county. In all honesty, this site is the best location I could find in Orlando thus far, and I think you will agree.

If you happened to read the comment section of the previously mentioned articles you might have caught wind of this new site. It is a roughly 6 acre site located to the east of Lynx Central Station at the north end of Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Lots of people know this site because it is also the location of the planned SunRail mixed-use development that is planned to go in when the rail line becomes operational in 2014. I have even heard some people tell me that there is no way this site could be used for a stadium because of the train station... think again.

Lynx Central Station Mixed-Use Concept Plan
(Courtesy of Lynx & Rida Development Corp)
The site is currently owned by a company called 400 North Orange LLC who already has an exclusive agreement with the city to develop the site into a combination of retail, residential, and green spaces to support the commuter rail station. Some of the renderings for the site can be found here in a meeting agenda for the Lynx Board of Directors where they discuss easements with the parcel. As you can see from the pictures the plan calls for lots of residential units and if you live in downtown Orlando you know those are going like hot cakes (not really). The white elephant of downtown, the 55 West high-rise at Church Street has had auctions, foreclosures, you name it just to get people to turns the lights on at night. The same holds true for other residential towers in the downtown area, Orlando is one of the hardest hit real estate markets in the country and is still recovering. While the plan for the site was based on the influx of riders wanting to live by the station, rumor has it that the market has softened a bit and the plans for the site might be changing.

Lynx Central Station
(Courtesy of SunRail)
A lot of people assume that the train station would take up a big chunk of the site, but that's not the case. SunRail's own concept site plans for the station, available here and shown on the left, show just a platform and some parking on the east side of the tracks. The assumption is that the SunRail ticketing services and waiting areas would be incorporated into the existing Lynx Central Station. With just a small strip of land needed for the train platform along the west side of the North Orange parcel, the rest of the site would still be available for development of what could be a fantastic stadium.

In our interview with Phil we discussed how the Houston Dynamo were able to "buck the trend" of expensive soccer specific stadiums and build a beautiful downtown facility with BBVA Compass Stadium at a cost of around $95M. Phil came right out and said that they were looking to do a very similar stadium of around 18,000 seats (Houston is around 22,000) and have estimated construction at around $70M-$80M. If that's the case I figured I would check the site to see if BBVA would actually fit on the North Orange parcel.

BBVA Compass Stadium to-scale on
the proposed North Orange Ave Parcel
(Images courtesy of Google Earth)
What I found is that just like the stadium sits on a tight site in Houston, the Orlando City Stadium would fit tight on this site but still meet the set back requirements from the city, which are typically 25 feet from edge of roadway. I drew up the entire site and stadium in AutoCAD to ensure the scaling was correct, but the thin lines of the program don't translate well to non-engineers so I placed it on a site map instead. Keep in mind, Orlando City's stadium would be smaller in size, most likely by going with a U-shaped facility opened to the north side to allow for stages for concerts. The U-shape would also meet the expansion criteria of up to 20k-24k seats as Phil mentioned in our interview by filling in the gap with seats later. BBVA stadium has a lower bowl of 10 rows, then a suite level, above which sits another 20 rows of stadium seating. Pretty simple design, but it seems to work great for Houston and it would great for Orlando as well.

As Phil stated in our interview and has said to me countless times before, the stadium site search is a moving target. As the criteria is reviewed, some sites fall off the list and others are added. And of course, it is not in the best interest of the club, city, county, or anyone involved to discuss a single potential site until the paperwork is signed, so I doubt we will hear too much more on this except from our loyal followers.

So what do you think? Is this the ideal site for Orlando City's soccer specific stadium? Leave a comment and let us know.


24 comments :

  1. It seems just weird to have a soccer stadium in the middle of downtown. I don't even want to think about the driving and parking headaches! (And I live where bus and SunRail would not be a true option.)

    To me, it would make sense to have the SSS at Wide World of Sports. Disney wants more usage, they would probably help pay for it, international tourists would support the team and boost our numbers and revenue...

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    1. No it wouldn't. Disney places an enormous premium on tickets for events at WWoS. Plus, it would be an insane distance. On the order of Frisco.

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    2. Yeah, disney would ruin everything this team has built. The people who are going to support this team are the people of Orlando, not the people of Missouri, Texas, ect. This location is perfect, ive said it before and these renderings impress me and im sold. Perfect location right off Orange, walking distance from the bars, clubs, and good restaurants. Plus, parking is not bad at night, and on weeknights theres more parking than needed. And i'll state this again "anonymous" you must work at disney or something because that is the worst idea ever. The people who are going to build our Supporter groups are all going to be coming from 15 minutes east of downtown around UCF. unless you want a half full stadium with little canadian kids supporting your team for 1 day then keep thinking about disney. If you want a roaring, passionate crowd who loves THERE team I say build it up right across from the courthouse as Reeves has invested much time into exploring it. Plus the tourists will drive to downtown to see a game if they want. I work at magic games beer vending and tons of tourists staying at disney come to games all the time. They dont mind the short drive for there ONLY time going to a game. Also they have told me they love being able to explore the actual "city of Orlando" and get out of wonderland for a few hours. This Location is prime, prime, prime. And if I had more than a few grand to my name I'd help to get it done. :/

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    3. Reeves has invested much time into researching it? I thought this was my blog. Ha! Both Reeves and I share the same passion for Orlando City finding the perfect downtown site (and not Disney). Thanks as always for following the blog!

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    4. Sorry, my bad. I meant to prop you, just wrote Reeves on accident I was backing his response. You both do a great job, great to see people who have a vision for this city. (not disney, lol)

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    5. Disney is the reason the Orlando Rays moved to Montgomery, they'll just ruin City too

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  2. Also, not the safest area - Lynx station is home to many vagrants. Wide World of Sports? Safe.

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    Replies
    1. Also, since you have to say it, there wont be any "vagrants" in that area in 2014. The Creative village will be right across I4, only one full block away and that will be a predominantly young college age commmunity (which will most likely support this team fully) working in technology, gaming, ect. No "vagrents", this city is going to be very different in a few years. Especially once the creative village is done and if this stadium gets built there you'll see the area get much nicer. Plus that bus station is very nice, theres ALWAYS going to be some sort of odd loners at bus stations traveling, doesnt mean there going to try to rape and rob you in the middle of downtown with bus staff, drivers, security, police, and not to mention the 20,000 other people going to the game if it was to be there.

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    2. Also too: have you ever been to an actual stadium, like, anywhere in the world? They always seem to be the in the worst parts of the city, and always seem to do just fine.

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  3. I'm not sure if the comments on Disney's WWOS for a potential site are coming from Ms. Ferguson, as similar comments had been posted from her on the team's Facebook page. I had posted a response to her same question there, but I will restate the facts here.

    Major League Soccer has dictated through their expansion criteria that the teams play in a soccer-specific stadium in a downtown/urban area of the community. That has been the case with the last five teams to join the league: Montreal, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, and Philly and has been the case with Houston's new downtown stadium that opened this spring.

    The downtown location, or others in the same relative area, offer great access from I-4 and SR-408, bus service via Lynx, and the potential for a nearby SunRail station. Parking isn't anymore of an issue for this site as it is for the new Amway Center, there are close to 10,000 public parking spaces within a 10 minute walk of this site.

    Disney has tried to get into the minor league sports market before with the idea that tourists would love to go to games while they are in town, but that's simply not true. People don't travel from the Northeast and Midwest to Disney to see a baseball or soccer game, they travel to see the parks.

    The City of Orlando has spent a lot of time and effort trying to create a seperate identity from Disney for itself. Much like the Amway Center, a downtown soccer stadium would go a long way in appealing to the local sports fan and community.

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  4. Wide world of sports? That would be a complete failure. Parking wouldn't be any harder than going to a magic game or to work downtown, and many thousands of people do it everyday. Tourists aren't going to orlando city games, they are going to disney world.

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  5. I like where your thoughts are with the stadium. This should be a project that benefits the City of Orlando, not Disney. Besides being too far away for most regular fans to get to, I'm trying to find things to do that aren't Disney related. I have spent many hours walking to Fenway Park from the Green Line and vagrants have never been an issue. I would think that OPD would have their game faces on while one of the downtown destinations had 10k plus people walking around.

    One question I had was how long did it take to build the stadium in Houston? I was surprised that Orlando City wasn't mentioned in the Citrus Bowl press conference as a regular tenant and potential beneficiary of the planned improvements. Part of my thoughts (paralleling the first article about this last week) was that there was a plan in place for a new home for Orlando City that would be ready by the 2014 renovations so they would have somewhere to play...assuming MLS grants Orlando City a franchise this fall as suggested in other articles on this site.

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    1. Daniel - In response to the master plan for the Citrus Bowl, if all goes accordingly Orlando City won't have to use that facility past 2014. BBVA Compass Stadium was built in just over 16 months in a similar climate to Orlando where the building season isn't hampered by snow and cold temperatures. In the case of the Dynamo, they played an extended road trip to open the 2012 season and played their first match at the new stadium in on May 12th. The same was true for Sporting KC last season when they waited for Livestrong Sporting Park to finish construction. If a team was awarded to start play in the 2014 season they would have to put a shovel in the ground by Spring 2013 to meet the schedule. So to answer your question, yes, the announcement would have to come this fall or winter.

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  6. Where does your rendering place the parking?

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    1. From previous articles about the new Amway Center and parking studies I can tell you the city operates 9 garages and 3 surface lots within a 10 minute walk of the proposed site. Those spaces account for roughly 8,000 spaces, there are another 2,000 available with on-street meter parking in that same general area. Couple the existing parking with the Lynx station and potential SunRail station, additional parking for the stadium would be a waste of space in my opinion... the exception being more room for tailgating!

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  7. This site would be perfect. It has the perfect atmosphere, and location. That Orlando skyline peaking over the stands just excites the heck out of me. I would definitely get a season ticket for that!

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  8. Tight inner city stadium location near a rail station. Sounds like a lot of big English clubs to me. That's what I'm used to, so I'm perfectly comfortable with it.

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  9. Sold - Solid locale! Hopefully this is a site OC is considering.

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  10. Show me the money!!!!!!!!!!! Pipe Dream....

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    1. I hear people doing nice things with KickStarter these days. ;D

      Seriously speaking though, a venue on that proposed spot would be a cash cow waiting to be built. Parking isn't an issue in that particular spot, the(currently "free")inner-city LYNX-LYMMO bus line goes right through that area, and it has high potential of being a major boost to the area financially. The stadium would draw sporting crowds to a downtown area that could use a revitalization in both profits and patrons. Investors would be foolish *not* to jump on the bandwagon now.

      The only problem that I can feasibly see are: Land cost(downtown spaces are obviously a premium), law enforcement coverage for another major venue, and determining occupational use for other entertainment(live concert shows, other sporting events, etc.).

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    2. Maybe someone missed the news about the new owner?

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  11. Move them to Miami, give Ray Hudson a ring and rebrand as the Fusion!

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    1. Miami is a hell hole, with bad fans. So no. Orlando is awesome, and are fans are true and real, not lame bandwagoners with ony a true fan base of maybe 50%. Plus our City is WAY better than Miami's condo-opolis.

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  12. I love the location, great article.

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