Simon Veness is a beat writer covering Orlando City SC for MLSsoccer.com. He has been writing about soccer for various media in the UK and USA since 1981. You can view all of his stories written for MLSsoccer.com here.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Jason Kreis got his first look at his future home stadium on Monday and pronounced it “right up there at the top” of the league’s soccer-specific venues.
Kreis has been fully involved with player personnel and coaching decisions since he arrived in Orlando on July 19 and had not had the chance to visit the rapidly-growing structure that is just seven blocks from their current home at Camping World Stadium.
But president and founding owner Phil Rawlins conducted a special tour on Monday afternoon for all the coaching staff from Orlando City, USL team OCB and the Orlando Pride of the NWSL.
And, after viewing the full site, which is due for completion in early 2017, Kreis admitted to being awe-struck at the provisions for the fans, players and staff.
“It was an incredible feeling to be at the new stadium today and stand where we will be playing next season,” he said. “It seems like they have covered every detail to make it the absolute best environment for our team to play in, so I just couldn’t be more excited. I wish it was three weeks away rather than months.
“From what I have seen so far and what’s available out there in the league, I would go ahead and put this right up there at the top.”
The 25,500-seat venue is specifically designed to create an intense, intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams, with the field sunk eight feet below ground level and low roofs to corral and amplify the noise from the fans. Kreis was already envisioning next season.
“I think it will be an incredible atmosphere to watch a game in,” he said. “I’m quite certain if we can take the fans that have been in the [former] Citrus Bowl and plug them into this building, we should have a real nice atmosphere for games.”
He had a special message for the club’s existing fanbase, who have seen the team win one and lose one so far under the new head coach. “Keep on coming, keep on supporting, keep on believing,” Kreis said. “Because this is going to be a special club, and a special place and a special community.”
Barton Malow is the company overseeing the whole construction project, and vice president Dave Price expressed his amazement at seeing the Orlando City phenomenon take shape.
“With 42 years of building in Florida, it still amazes our construction team to see a craze like this sweep in Central Florida,” he said. “It’s great to see the city, the fans and the local community contribute to the rise of soccer. It’s an exciting time for the sport and we are honored to work with Orlando City SC and our partners to bring this vision to life.”