When Orlando and Orange County officials approved a joint pact in 2007 for a multi-million-dollar renovation of the city’s historic Florida Citrus Bowl stadium, the hope was to produce a venue worthy of hosting marquee sporting events.
Seven years later, officials believe the seeds of that future have been planted. After spending USD$207m and nearly 10 months of reconstruction, the nearly 80-year-old stadium reopened its doors to the public on November 19. It joins a recently completed downtown performing arts centre and Amway Center (home to the Orlando Magic) that were approved as part of a USD$1bn community development project seven years ago.
About 90% of the stadium was demolished for the renovation, which included everything except the upper decks. The facelift includes an increase in capacity to more than 65,000 (75,000 for non-sports events), along with the addition of 6,000 club seats, 33 luxury suites, a 10,000sqft party deck and new video screens.
Lower bowl demolition began in January and was about 95% complete for the first official game in the renovated facility, which was the annual Florida Classic matchup between Bethune-Cookman University and Florida A&M. Later this month the venue will host the Russell Athletic Bowl (December 29) and New Year’s Day Citrus Bowl (formerly the Capital One Bowl). A third bowl game, the Cure Bowl, joins Orlando’s roster of bowl games in 2015.
The target date for the complete renovation to be finished by is April 2015.
Officials have said previously that it wants to bid on other neutral site college games and would like to look into hosting NFL preseason games in addition to concerts and other non-sports events. To that end, it has also been announced that a new annual Orlando Kickoff Game will be played at the Citrus Bowl to help usher in the college football season each year. The first of these neutral site games will be in on Labor Day in 2016 between the Florida State and Ole Miss.
It will be the first non-bowl neutral-site game at a stadium since 2000 when Notre Dame and Navy met. It will also be the first regular-season appearance by a Southeastern Conference (SEC) team in the Citrus Bowl stadium since 1991.