- Chris Green
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
A Purple Haze of Football Glory
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; 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.
Despite not having made the playoffs yet in their young existence at the top flight of American soccer, Orlando has produced one of the most impressive game day experiences anywhere, and continues to do so every game. From the never-ending songs from the wall to the march into the stadium, Orlando City Stadium has everything you could imagine wanting in a soccer stadium.
Editor’s Note: In June, 2019, the stadium name was changed to Exploria Stadium as it was sold to Exploria Resorts, a Florida-based time share and vacation rental company.
Food & Beverage 4
The food and beverages at Orlando City Stadium for MLS games echoes what you will find at Orlando Pride matches. The standards are all there, from pizza to burgers, from hot dogs to nachos, and fans can choose from this traditional stadium fare. 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.
Orlando City Stadium has concessions 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. Fans can expect to find other specialty items as well while at Orlando City Stadium. A variety of sausages are available for $10 (chorizo, Tuscany, or hot Italian are all on the menu), and you can also find pulled pork that is topped with raspberry melba and cherry peppers that is served with chips and a pickle for $13. That same price will also get you juicy carved BBQ beef brisket with chips and a pickle.
If you are looking for a beverage, soft drinks run upwards from $5, and beer will cost you $8-$10.
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 SRO space includes a cup holder and clearly 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.
Orlando City 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? Orlando City Stadium is literally 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 Orlando City 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 Orlando City Stadium, are just 30 minutes away without traffic.
For local restaurants, the Lion’s Pride is one of the most popular sports bars in the Church Street area. Fans also visit The Rusty Spoon, Jernigan’s Restaurant, and Chela Tequila & Tacos. If you want to dig into the heart of Orlando City fan territory, supporters groups meet up before and after game at the nearby Broken Cauldron bar.
And 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 Orlando City Stadium. Also, being in Orlando you are also 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.
Orlando City Stadium, and all of Orlando’s professional sports stadiums downtown, are refreshingly easy to get to. Driving on I-4 you literally pass within a few yards of Amway Center, and can easily see Orlando City 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 Orlando City Stadium.
There is no parking garage nor any parking lots at Orlando City 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 Orlando City 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, there are several bus lines that pass by Orlando City 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. There are stations that drop you off right near the Amway Center, so a walk from the station to Orlando City Stadium is short. All of that said, if you get to Orlando City 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 $25 for the standing room only supporters section. Upper level end zone tickets start at $26, 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. One must also add the price of parking and concessions as well. That said, the experience at an Orlando City SC game is absolutely incredible, and arguably a must-see whenever visiting the City Beautiful – everything here is well worth the price of admission.
Orlando City 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 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, Orlando City Stadium features various seating options and vantage points throughout the stadium for fans to watch from, including the Disney World Lion’s Den and the Sun Pass seating.
Orlando City SC Supporters March, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
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 Orlando City 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 the electricity of European fans, this is your next best thing. Few stadiums combine everything needed to make a world-class experience like Orlando City 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.