From the outside looking in on Church Street, there’s no denying it; Orlando City Stadium isn’t quite fully complete.
But Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão told reporters on Tuesday the stadium is on track for completion ahead of Sunday’s season opener between Orlando City and New York City FC.
“Yes it will be, we’re very confident on Barton Malow’s work, and we know that by Sunday we’re going to be ready,” Leitão said on the stadium update.
According to Leitão, there were initial plans of opening the stadium on the third week of the season, but a visit from MLS commissioner Don Garber gradually shifted those plans earlier than expected.
“One thing that’s very important to share with you, when we first started planning when we’re going to play the first game here at the stadium, our initial plan was to play at the third week of the season,” added Leitão. “That was the original plan. But then after that, we had a visit from the commissioner, and talking to us brought the opportunity to be here in the first week playing on national TV.”
Moving the stadium-opener to week one was an opportunity attached to a hard decision with plenty of risks, said Leitão. Among those risks he mentioned was having the stadium finished until the last moment.
“First thing I want to tell the fans the stadium is going to be ready. Second, I want to ask for some patience with us, especially in this first game,” he concluded. “We’re really excited about this building, it’s something we’ve been planning for a long, long time. I will say that everything that we put together, it’s here. The whole process took us from an 18,000 seat stadium to 25,000. The way we did the stadium was solely focused for the fans.”
The 25,500-set stadium is expecting a sell out crowd on Sunday and for the April 15 game versus LA Galaxy.
While the downtown soccer stadium isn’t at 100 percent as of Tuesday, Ricardo Kaka is looking forward to playing at the team’s new venue.
“It’s amazing,” said Kaka. “It’s my first time to a brand new stadium, so I’ve been playing in a lot of stadium, but I have this opportunity to play in a brand new one is great.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s opener between Orlando City and New York City begins at 5 p.m.