I have come up with an idea that may jump-start construction for a soccer-specific stadium for Orlando City.
If the Citrus Bowl renovation project is approved next month, it means we will be unable to use the Citrus Bowl in 2014, as they will be tearing down the entire lower bowl and building a new one from scratch. The problem with that is, Orlando City has grown too big for any other venue currently in Orlando to be feesable.
It’s too big for any high school stadium, and we wouldn’t be able to sell beer.
Bright House Networks Stadium has an unsuitably narrow field, and all of the other venues at UCF don’t have enough seats.
Disney’s Wide World of Sports places a premium on all their tickets, making team revenue impossible at acceptable prices. Plus, they don’t have a suitable soccer venue for regular-season matches anyway.
Tinker Field is out of the question, since that space will undoubtedly be required for Citrus Bowl construction.
While writing my article yesterday, and thinking about it this morning, I have come up with a solution that not only could give us a venue for 2014, but could be the lynchpin to instigate expansion to Major League Soccer.
My idea is a hybrid of the “pop-up stadium” idea, combined with the modular stadium designs found in England and other parts of Europe.
Once a suitable location is found, contractors could be brought in to build a temporary, or “pop-up”, stadium, similar in construction to what was Empire Field in Vancouver. But instead of a single edifice, build it as four separate stands. Such a venue could go up throughout 2013 and be ready in time for the 2014 preseason friendlies.
At first, the design would be similar in structure to Empire Field, with only scoreboard, luxury suites and locker rooms having any permanent quality to them. As time goes on, we can replace other structures with permanent structures.
Eventually, the seating can be replaced on a section-by-section basis. Many of the older stadia in England–such as Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and Molineux–have been or are being renovated in this fashion, with each stand being an independent structure that can be worked on, torn down and rebuilt without requiring a full stadium shutdown.
If a starter venue could be constructed on the cheap like this, cheap enough that it would not require public finds, then it could be just what Orlando City is looking for to put them over the top for MLS expansion. If plans can be made quick enough, we might be able to pull off Phil’s 2014 target date for launching an MLS team after all.
With this idea, the only real question is this: Where do we put the darn thing?