Exploria Stadium – Orlando City SC
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71
Exploria Stadium 655 W Church St Orlando, FL 32805
Year Opened: 2017
Orlando City SC is everything the MLS wants its teams to be: a team with a beautiful stadium in the middle of a downtown district with nearby restaurants, shopping, and public transportation; an incredibly passionate fan base that shows up and sells out games regardless of the team’s record; and a vibrant city that has embraced its growing sports culture – this is the blueprint the league has asked teams to follow from here on out.
Orlando has produced one of the most impressive game day experiences anywhere and continues to do so every game. From the never-ending songs at the wall to the march into the stadium, Exploria Stadium has everything you could imagine wanting in a soccer stadium.
Food & Beverage 4
The food and beverages at Exploria Stadium for MLS games echo what you will find at Orlando Pride matches. The standards are all there, from pizza ($12) to burgers to hot dogs ($5-$9.50) and nachos ($7.25), and fans can choose from this traditional stadium fare. However, thanks to fan feedback the team has added concessions from local restaurants in Orlando, such as 4 Rivers, The Coop, and Cholo Dogs. Additionally, the price of each item goes down by a few dollars if you are a member of the Orlando City fan club rewards program, or are a season ticket holder.
Exploria Stadium has concession stands throughout the entirety of the main concourse on all sides during games, meaning you won’t usually have to wait too long or go too far to get something to eat or drink. Beer and cocktails range from $10.50 to $19.50, while water ($5), soda ($6.25), and Gatorade ($6.25) are all available. Tacos from Black Rooster Taqueria are $14, with loaded nachos ($15), chips and salsa ($7.25), and chips and guac ($7.25) on offer as well. BBQ from 4 Rivers is the big hit, with pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches and nachos all running for $15.
There is nothing like Orlando City soccer in the whole state of Florida – from several hours before the gates even open the party begins. Supporters groups march en masse down the streets of Orlando, singing, banging drums, and popping purple smoke bombs as they make their way to the main gates.
Once inside, the north end zone transforms into The Wall, the standing-room-only supporters section that is reminiscent of English football pitches. What is nice about this area for regular fans who aren’t members of the fan groups is that each standing-room-only space includes a cup holder, plus marked lines for each person to stand in. The entire stadium’s seats are individual chairs with backs, making every seat from the first row downstairs to the upper-level corners a comfortable one.
Exploria Stadium itself is beautiful and easy to navigate. All around the concourse, you can find people holding signs that say they can answer any questions you have. This means no matter how lost you get you can always find your way back. The stadium also utilizes a non-paper ticket method, meaning every ticket is digital – fans simply download the Orlando City or Ticketmaster app and access their tickets that way to get into the stadium.
The entire game sees the supporters groups sing in unison from The Wall, keeping the energy up the whole game regardless of the score on the field. Whenever goals are scored by Orlando, the whole stadium erupts, and The Wall fills with purple smoke and waving flags as “Purple Haze” plays throughout the stadium. After each game, the team locks arms and walks to The Wall to salute their fans.
What can you say about downtown Orlando? Exploria Stadium is a few blocks from the popular Church Street district, the hub of Orlando’s rebirth as a foodie and entertainment destination. The City of Orlando has become a sports-thirsty destination over the last few years – with the explosion in popularity of Orlando City SC and a renewed interest in the Orlando Magic and Orlando Solar Bears, the City Beautiful loves sports.
The immediate area around Exploria Stadium includes suburbs to the west and the downtown city center to the east. There are tons of hotels nearby, and since the stadium sits two blocks away from I-4, getting to other resorts and hotels in the greater Orlando area is not hard to do either. Fans can easily stay at the Crowne Plaza Orlando-Downtown, Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, or the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Downtown, and still walk to the arena with ease.
Aside from those, there are numerous hotels and resorts in the Orlando area, both downtown and to the south towards the theme parks – Disney’s resorts, arguably the farthest from Exploria Stadium, are just 30 minutes away without traffic.
If you want to see the sights, Lake Eola Park is just a few blocks away – this park is an Orlando landmark that is also home to a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, and you can also find another quality farmer’s market on weekends outside of Exploria Stadium. Also, being in Orlando you are just a short drive from either Walt Disney World, Sea World, or the Universal Studios theme parks.
The fans are beyond passionate in Orlando – not enough can be said about their love for their team. From the first kickoff to the final whistle the fans can be heard singing supporters group songs. Whenever a bad call is made, fans erupt with chants of “Ref You Suck!” or “The ref belongs on OBT” (a local reference anyone in Orlando can help fill you in on when you arrive).
That said, there is rarely a curse word uttered in the song lyrics, and the fans are all polite to visitors – even fans from the other team are treated with respect and courtesy by all in attendance. But the best thing is that nearly every game is either sold out or near capacity, regardless of the team’s record, which means the experience and enthusiasm will not be any different throughout the season.
Exploria Stadium, and all of Orlando’s professional sports stadiums downtown, are refreshingly easy to get to. Driving on I-4 you pass within a few yards of Amway Center, and can easily see Exploria Stadium just two blocks beyond, so not finding the facility is almost impossible. But if you do somehow get lost, signs all around downtown point the way to Exploria Stadium.
There is no parking garage nor any parking lots at Exploria Stadium itself. The team owns and/or rents several lots in the area, however, and parking passes can be purchased (usually through third-party sellers) to park there. The Amway Center’s Geico Garage is also open for parking on game days. That said, there are also countless parking options in the lots and fields around Exploria Stadium on game day in every direction. The City of Orlando also sells parking passes at a special rate for games to various lots in and around downtown Orlando.
In addition to the parking, several bus lines pass by Exploria Stadium, and the hub for Orlando’s Lynx bus system is right downtown, a mere 10-minute walk from the stadium’s gates. Fans also can take the Sunrail train from the north and south, usually for free, on game days. Some stations drop you off right near the Amway Center, so a walk from the station to Exploria Stadium is short. All of that said, if you get to Exploria Stadium and can’t find somewhere to park or an easy way to get there, you simply aren’t looking.
Once inside, fans should note that the team uses a clear-bag policy, so bringing items into the game is going to be extremely limited.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to Orlando City SC games start at $23 for the standing-room-only supporter's section; upper-level end zone tickets start at $23, while sideline seats can range from $36 to $65 and upwards. This means that the investment for a family of four will be upwards of $100 for tickets alone, and one must also add the price of parking and concessions as well. That said, the experience at an Orlando City SC game is incredible, and arguably a must-see whenever visiting the City Beautiful – everything here is well worth the price of admission.
Exploria Stadium features 49 rainbow-colored seats in the lower bowl, as a tribute to the 49 lives lost in the Pulse Night Club shooting, and the team also has a mascot that roams the stadium and concourse, greeting fans and young kids in attendance. The Supporters March is also something worth seeing whenever the home team is in town, as a massive crowd takes over the roads in Orlando with smoke and songs en route to their home stadium. In addition, Exploria Stadium features various seating options and vantage points throughout the stadium for fans to watch, including the Disney World Lion’s Den and the Sun Pass seating.
Orlando City SC is what soccer in America is trying to become, and it is a great sight to see. This team has found the perfect formula for fan involvement, stadium location, and overall atmosphere to capitalize on the moment – going to a game at Exploria Stadium is less of an afternoon at a sporting event and more of a life experience.
For the truly soccer faithful in America who yearn for the passion and electricity of European fans, this is your next best thing. Few stadiums combine everything needed to make a world-class experience as Exploria Stadium does – it is easy to see why the US Men’s National Team had such high praise for the facility after their World Cup Qualifying game there last year.