Orlando's Stadium Impresses With Space and Value

Taking a less is more approach, architects have designed a first rate MLS facility
by Chris Kimball   |   Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

Orlando City finally unveiled its soccer stadium on Tuesday and it didn't disappoint. During a downtown event for media and fans, team President Phil Rawlins revealed rendered pictures of what he expects to be "the most iconic stadium in Major League Soccer."

That's no small feat. Populous, the architectural firm that designed the stadium, had a difficult task: create a world-class facility on a small plot of land for just $110 million. And just as all good designers should, they transformed these potential negatives into positives.

Budget limitations precluded Orlando's soccer stadium from being a massive structure like those we customarily see in Europe or even some MLS cities. So instead, the designers wisely chose to make open space the overriding design feature of Orlando's facility.

The building blocks of the stadium seem to be almost non-existent, which is precisely the point. A soccer stadium in Florida should feel light and airy, almost effervescent. We don't need thick barriers here to psychologically protect us from the outside elements.

So the architects have designed a stadium that feels visually transparent. Intersecting planes combine to form grandstands, roofs and walkways. These linear partitions seem to unfold like an elaborate origami to reveal the green terrain of the playing surface itself.

What could have been perceived as mere emptiness in an inferior design is instead an invitation for light and air to enter the communal space. Light, of course, is what Florida is famous for. And air, which is all too scarce on those humid August evenings, will be much appreciated.

Despite minimalist architectural features, or maybe because of them, the visual impact of the stadium will be impressive. The focal point of this design, the real star, is quite simply the field itself. The designers ingeniously chose to "sink" the field 10 feet below street level, providing vista views of the turf, even from outside the venue.

Architects also decided to keep the South end of the stadium open allowing street traffic to peer inside and feel the energy from within.

"We want the excitement of the stadium to flow out into the community. And the love and passion of the community to flow in," explained Rawlins.

"People are going to come down and see that beautiful green grass," said Architect Bruce Miller in describing the South end promenade. "It's amazing that people just want to see grass in an urban environment."

And yet, even with the South end virtually open, having a sunken playing field allows for spectator seating on all four sides of the stadium, avoiding the dreaded "horseshoe" effect.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer thoughtfully stated that Orlando's venue will be "the best $110M stadium in the entire MLS." In other words, nobody's pretending that Orlando City's new home will match the vastness of Seattle's CenturyLink Field or the fine details found at Kansas City's Sporting Park.

But it doesn't have to. Thanks to some inspired designers, Orlando City will build a soccer home on a small plot of land, and with a restricted budget, to match any other in the league.

NEXT UP: June 11 - Orlando City SC vs. Orange County Blues, ESPN's Wide World Of Sports Complex, Kissimmee, FL, 7:30pm EST. YouTube live stream.


William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after