Orlando City will play entire 2015 season at renovated Citrus Bowl

Orlando City will have to wait until 2016 to celebrate the arrival of its soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City will play its entire inaugural season at the renovated Citrus Bowl and wait to open its new soccer-specific stadium in 2016, the club announced on Monday.

The club played its first three USL PRO seasons at the Citrus Bowl, but it moved to the Wide World of Sports Complex this year to allow the City of Orlando to start the renovation process in January. The venerable football stadium will receive more than $200 million in improvements to rebuild the lower bowl and upgrade amenities and suites throughout the stadium by November.

By announcing its intent to play its entire 2015 campaign at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando City offers continuity for its fans during its inaugural MLS season and provides latitude to complete its work on the construction of its 20,000-seat, soccer-specific venue downtown.

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“We remain hard at work alongside our partner the City of Orlando on all aspects of the project,” Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said in a press release.  “I am very confident saying that we remain fully on track to open our new stadium prior to the start of the 2016 MLS season and we will be announcing details for our new stadium ground breaking ceremony later this year.”

Orlando City expected to move into its new stadium at some point next summer, but it encountered delays – most notably from a local church still negotiating with the City of Orlando about the terms of its sale after an attempt to employ eminent domain encountered public opposition – as it attempted to start construction.

Those ongoing concerns and their corresponding impact on the construction schedule prompted Orlando City to make the pragmatic decision to postpone any attempts to move into its own ground next year.

The delay isn’t expected to threaten the progress toward building the stadium, though. The financing for the project is in place and the architects have been hired with the intent of breaking ground later this year, Orlando City chief operating officer Brent Lashbrook told the Orlando Sentinel.