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Intersection: Inside Orlando City's New Soccer Stadium

Orlando City President Phil Rawlins oversees construction of a new soccer stadium. Photo: Brendan Byrne
Orlando City President Phil Rawlins oversees construction of a new soccer stadium. Photo: Brendan Byrne

White beams form a skeleton around the Orlando City Soccer stadium, taking shape in the downtown neighborhood of Parramore. The $156 million dollar stadium will be home to Orlando City Lions and the Orlando City Pride soccer teams after two seasons playing at Camping World Stadium.

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There’s concern that the stadium will drive out the residents of this historic, black neighborhood. And funding of the stadium raised eyebrows when reports surfaced that green cards were in exchange for half-a-million dollar investments.

Attendance is still strong. And you can’t avoid those purple Orlando City Soccer car magnets.

On the construction site crews buzz around the stadium, which is scheduled to open on time in March.

Wearing a purple hard hat Orlando City Soccer Founder and President Phil Rawlins heads toward the structure watching his vision takes shape.

“You know, it’s very exciting for me because it’s the last piece of the jigsaw. We made a series of commitments and promises to the community and this for me is the final one. We said we’d build a soccer stadium in downtown Orlando, and this is it, and in a few months’ time it will be open. It’s very exciting. It feels like a dream come true,” says Rawlins.

The canopies are in place, rows of purple seats are going in, and there’s a perch waiting for the jumbo screen.

Rawlins remembers when it sank in that he really is building a soccer stadium. “Really when the south end got finally enclosed and there was that whole bowl, and so you had the feeling of a complete stadium. That’s when it really struck me that this was - we’d done it, this was it,” he says.

On this morning, he takes a break from work for a tour of the stadium and to discuss what’s ahead for the Lions and his new women’s team Orlando City Pride.