Orlando City Soccer Club officially completed its new $155 million, 25,000-seat stadium on Feb. 24 that will be the home of the Orlando City Soccer Club Lions, the Orlando Pride and the Orlando City B team.
The stadium, which has been under construction since October 2014, is opening just in time for the Lions' 2017 season debut on March 5 against the New York City FC. The facility also will house many of the teams' operations and front offices, which currently are on the east part of downtown Orlando.
Despite the Lions' success in growing its fanbase, making the stadium a reality wasn't easy. In May 2015, the team announced it would fund the stadium privately after there had been ongoing delays and hurdles on tapping into public funds originally planned to help build it. In fact, those funding issues almost stalled the project, said Flavio Augusto da Silva, chairman and majority owner of Orlando City Soccer.
"Two years ago when we were planning to build an 18,000-seat stadium, we had some funding problems. We had pushback and we were about to [announce] that we weren’t going to be able to have the stadium anymore," he told spectators at today's ribbon-cutting event. "We had a few days to figure out how we were going to build it privately and we found the strategy and committed to that."
Augusto da Silva credited the Orlando community – especially the fans – for proving the stadium needed to be built. The Lions' success in advancing from a minor league franchise to a Major League Soccer team was due to an effective grassroots effort that built a massive fan base.
The debut of the stadium also chalks up another distinction for the region, added Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer: "It proves we are truly a sports destination."
Dyer went on to send a personal message to MLS Commissioner Don Garber that the league should keep Orlando in mind for future All-Star games, which would bring a huge economic impact to the city.
The stadium will host official tours inside the facility on Feb. 25. Meanwhile, see the slideshow for what it looked like while it was under construction.