ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando City Soccer Club held a ribbon-cutting Friday morning for its new $153 million stadium in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood.
A host of elected officials attended the ceremony, which began at 10 a.m.
"It's a culmination of years of dedication and hard work," said Kay Rawlins, Orlando City Soccer Club co-founder.
Among those who spoke during the event were Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioner Regina Hill.
Portions of the stadium and concourse areas remain under construction, but team officials said the venue will be completed in time for the Lions’ home opener March 5 against New York City FC.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the stadium will likely open with a temporary certificate for several months, but that he expects all the major work and safety features at the stadium to be done on time.
Fans who have seen the stadium told Eyewitness News that they love the design. They love that the players will now have an all-grass field in a stadium built for soccer.
"They're going to be surprised how beautiful it is inside," said fan Jeff Thompson.
"My wife and I made our retirement plans to move here because of the soccer team. Now we own a business because of the soccer team," Thompson said.
Flávio Augusto da Silva, the team’s chairman and majority owner, said the Lions season opener was originally planned for mid-March, but it was rescheduled for an earlier date so it could be nationally televised.
”We were planning to play the first game in the middle of March, but Orlando City has been hot in the league,” he said.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting kicked off a series of events leading up to next weekend’s match.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, the team will host an open house at the stadium to allow fans to tour the new venue. At the same time, a 5K will be run, which will begin and end at the stadium.
The new home of OCSC and the Orlando Pride will seat 25,500 fans.
Dyer told Eyewitness News that the city has already been in talks with Major League Soccer to host an MLS All-Star Game.
A permanent memorial will be built into the east side of the stadium to celebrate Parramore's history.
"Hope now lives here at this stadium in Parramore, the field of dreams," said Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill.
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