Q&A With Orlando City President Phil Rawlins
OCSC President Phil Rawlins gives an update on the club in our latest feature
Q&A With Orlando City President Phil Rawlins
It’s been an exciting time recently if you are an Orlando City fan. There’s been a lot of news, which means it can get confusing. We wanted to get every answer in one, simple place, straight from Orlando City President Phil Rawlins’ mouth. Check out everything you need to know by reading below in our most recent Q&A!
Q: Where is Orlando City playing in 2014 and in what league?
In 2014 we’ll be playing our final season in the USL PRO and we’re delighted to say we’ll be playing that down at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where we’re configuring a purpose built stadium with about five and a half thousand seats especially for us.
Q: Why ESPN Wide World of Sports?
Well obviously you know the Citrus Bowl isn’t available to us in ’14, so we cast a wide net looking at the different possibilities of where we could play in ’14. We wanted somewhere where we had a really good field for the players to play on, somewhere that would give a good quality experience to the fans, and somewhere that was available for all the dates that we had throughout the season. The combination of all those things really led us to ESPN and it gives us the best combination of all those: fan experience, field quality, and availability.
Q: I’ve read that Louisville is one of the prospects that will be purchasing our USL PRO franchise. What does that mean and when will that occur?
That’s a good question; it’s a complex question to answer. Orlando City Soccer Club currently owns a USL PRO franchise. Orlando City will be moving up to MLS, but we, at the same time, still own this asset, this USL PRO franchise. We’ve agreed with the league that we can sell that franchise to another city and it’s that franchise that we will hopefully be selling to Louisville. If Louisville takes over that franchise then they would be our affiliate partner for 2015 going forward just as we were Sporting KC’s partner affiliate in 2013 and ’14.
Q: What is Major League Soccer and when will the Lions play in MLS?
MLS stands for Major League Soccer and the league was developed about 19 years ago right on the back of the World Cup in the U.S. in ’94. It is now the premier soccer league, the highest level of major league soccer in the country. It’s done a great job of developing its brand, growing its footprint. We would be the 21st team in MLS when we enter the league in 2015 alongside New York City FC. The league is the leading league in North America and it’s the third best attended professional sports league in the country outside of NFL and Major League Baseball.
Q: How long is the MLS season?
MLS season is actually a 9 month season, so we’ll be beginning play in early March and will go all the way through to the first weekend of December, if we’re successful enough to go to the championship game. Generally it runs all the way from March until Thanksgiving, really.
Q: When is the new, downtown stadium going to be built?
We have the location and we worked with the city to get what I think is the best location of any soccer stadium in the country. It’s a great location that’s right downtown on Church St., two blocks west of the Amway Center. We hope to break ground in late spring of 2014, take about 15 months to build the stadium and hopefully have it open by late summer of 2015.
Q: Where will the team play to begin the 2015 MLS season?
In 2015 we really have the opportunity to open two stadiums in one year. We’ll spend the first half of the MLS season in the brand new Citrus Bowl and be one of the first people to ever play there. Hopefully about mid-summer, we’ll move down the road to the new soccer stadium and play the second half of the season in the brand new downtown soccer stadium.
Q: How can fans get tickets for 2015 and will there be a price increase?
Well the best way to get tickets for ’15, to guarantee yourself tickets and to also guarantee yourself the choice of where you’re sitting, is to get a season ticket for 2014. Our 2014 season ticket holders will be given first choice and will be given preference over their seating choices for 2015, so we’ll go back out to them first.
The ticket prices will go up slightly but I don’t anticipate them going up by a lot. We are going to try and maintain the lower end for our supporter section. Obviously some prices will go up because the amenities and facilities will go up as well. We’ll have clubs, we’ll have suites and we will have a much higher quality of seating available and facilities available then we’ve had to date.
Q: Will purple continue to be the club’s primary color upon entry in MLS?
Yes, absolutely. We plan on owning purple, everybody loves it. The league loves the fact that we play in purple and we want to own that color.
Q: Will MLS games be broadcasted on TV?
Yes, all the MLS games in 2015 will be broadcast either locally on TV or nationally on television.
Q: Will Adrian Heath remain as head coach when the team enters MLS?
Yes he will. Adrian negotiated a new contract with us just about a year or so ago. It’s certainly our intention to keep Adrian, we’re delighted he stayed with us and we’re looking forward to many many successful seasons under Adrian’s leadership.
Q: Which players are going to be on the MLS squad and how is that process determined?
So far we have three players that we’ve made commitments to be with us in MLS in 2015. One of them is a player returning to us, Yordany Alvarez. Yordany was MVP of the league in 2011, and since then he has had two years of experience playing in MLS with Real Salt Lake. We are delighted to get him back for the 2014 season and Yordany will be with us in 2014 & 2015 and hopefully again for many more years to come.
He’ll be joined by Kevin Molino and Darwin Ceren. Kevin was out of contract at the end of the 2013 season and we were fortunately able to renegotiate a new contract with him, which includes him playing in 2014 and 2015 in MLS. We fought very hard to get Darwin, as several other MLS clubs were also interested in signing him. He’s the captain of El Salvador, at only 24 years old, and will be a great addition to our team in 2014 and 2015.
Q: Will the club still be called ‘Orlando City’ and will the logo change?
The club will still be called Orlando City Soccer Club and the logo will change. It has to change because it has to be registered with Major League Soccer. We are going to keep the lion, we are going to keep the purple, and it will hopefully get unveiled sometime during the course of the 2014 season.
Q: Will there continue to be international friendlies in 2015?
Yes, and hopefully there will be an international friendly in 2014 as well. But certainly in 2015, when we’ve got a brand new Citrus Bowl and our own stadium. Our opportunities to host international games, exhibition games, and maybe even the men’s national team will increase because we’ve got our own purpose built soccer stadium.