|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.