Orlando City fans will have to call the Citrus Bowl home for a bit longer.
The Lions' new stadium in downtown Orlando will not open in 2016 as planned, and its debut has been pushed back to next year, the club announced on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, stadium construction is taking a little longer than anticipated," said OCSC president Phil Rawlins in a statement Wednesday. "Therefore, in order to provide enough time, we have taken the prudent decision to play the entire 2016 season in the Orlando Citrus Bowl, and concentrate our construction efforts on being fully prepared for opening in 2017.
"This will allow us to provide fans, community neighbors, partners and competitors a first-class experience from the very first day."
Construction for the state-of-the-art downtown venue began in late 2014 and was initially expected to be finished in time for the 2016 season. Orlando later increased capacity to 25,500 and pushed the timeline back, saying the Lions and their new women's team, the Orlando Pride, would move into the new stadium during the 2016 season. Now, both teams will play all of 2016 in the Citrus Bowl.
“We continue to make progress on our new downtown stadium, and we expect to begin steel installation – a major construction milestone – later this month," Rawlins added. "At that time, we will also launch our 3D seat viewer, which will allow fans to get a first glimpse inside the stadium from their new seats."
- Find more Lions coverage at OrlandoCitySC.com
The stadium will be the third-largest soccer-specific stadium built in the league, as its capacity was adjusted upwards after Orlando entered MLS last season and quickly became one of the league's most successful expansion teams to date. With an average home crowd of 32,847 at the Citrus Bowl, the Lions enjoyed the second-highest total attendance in the league in 2015 after the Seattle Sounders.
Orlando City will open their season on March 6 at the Citrus Bowl against Real Salt Lake.