Today, Orlando City SC announced its new soccer-specific stadium will be pushed back to open for the 2017 season. Originally slated to open mid-season 2016, the Lions will now play their entire schedule at the Citrus Bowl. While a fine home by all considerations, this is a setback for the club as they originally viewed the Citrus Bowl as a very short term solution.
Club Founder and President, Phil Rawlins said:
"Unfortunately, stadium construction is taking a little longer than anticipated. Therefore, in order to provide enough time, we have taken the prudent decision to play the entire 2016 season in the Orlando Citrus Bowl, and concentrate our construction efforts on being fully prepared for opening in 2017. This will allow us to provide fans, community neighbors, partners and competitors a first class experience from the very first day."
Despite this change in schedule, it's important to remember that Orlando is going out of its way to create a heck of a fan experience, while all privately funded. The club has already raised their new stadium capacity by several thousand to where it will seat between 25,000 and 28,000 fans. While not on target for a 2016 debut, it's hard to deny the club isn't making great strides for its future home.
Meanwhile, Atlanta continues to go full steam ahead on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Targeted to open for Atlanta United's opening day in 2017, we must ask ourselves, "which club gets it done first?"
The new mammoth home of the Falcons and United is well on its way to completion and you can begin to envision the sight lines from each seat. Atlanta broke ground on its facility in May 2014, while Orlando did the same a few months later in October. While true that the Atlanta stadium is a much larger project and will take longer to complete, it certainly looks much more finished than Orlando's current state, where it appears some dirt has been moved around a bit.