When it comes to the Orlando City Soccer Club moving its training and administrative facility to Osceola County — let's just say the ball is rolling.
Crews have begun work turning two of the five baseball fields in the Osceola Heritage Park into a pair of soccer fields that will make up the soccer club's home base. Eventually, four fields (three grass and one turf) will be built, and the building space on campus will be customized for the club to include a fitness, training and recovery center, film review room, players’ lounge and meal room.
The soccer club announced Wednesday, followed by OHP officials Thursday, about for formal and final plans for who exactly is coming to Kissimmee, and when they're supposed to arrive.
This is the first definitive news about the project since it was formally announced on Nov. 1, 2018. Back then the plan was to open in July of this year as "the permanent and exclusive training complex for Orlando City of Major League Soccer and Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League."
The team announced Wednesday that the MLS club, minor-league side Orlando City B and the Orlando City Development Academy (DA), now headquartered at Montverde Academy, will call Osceola County home.
According to the club, Orlando City DA, or school-aged students of the game, is set to move at the start of the 2019-20 academic year in the fall. The MLS Lions will remain at Sylvan Lake Park, their current Seminole County training facility, through the end of the 2019 MLS season. Orlando City B will finish its first season in Montverde before moving its training operations to Osceola Heritage Park for the 2020 season. The Pride will remain at Sylvan Lake, and the club will personalize the training space for them.
“We are very excited and appreciative that the Club has decided to increase its already considerable investment in the new training complex, showing its commitment to the development of our youth players and the future of Orlando City. The move to Osceola is a huge step for this Club,” team Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a release. “There will be times when the Under-19 and Under-17 players will be training with the first team. It gives us the ability to bring the youth together under the same roof — seeing the first team, interacting with the first team and why not training with the first team?
"The players can see and feel, 'This is where I want to go,' and get that obvious interaction. The team has made the decision to invest more in that structure and offer those kids better opportunities."
There will be room at the complex by the end of this summer because the Florida Fire Frogs will vacate Osceola County Stadium at the completion of this season. Their final home game will be Sunday, Aug. 25 and will play on the road the final week of the season.
Team owner David Freeman confirmed this week that he has agreed to and signed an agreement proposed by Osceola County, who will pay him $500,000 to terminate its lease, currently a series of 23 one-year team options to stay, and vacate at the end of the season.
"We haven't worked anything out past that," said Freeman, who also has ownership stakes in two other minor-league franchises, and will retain the rights to own and operate a Florida State League team.
The Fire Frogs are the Class-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, who closed out a two-decade spring training run at ESPN's Wide World of Sports last spring and and are moving their Florida operations to a new facility in North Port, just south of Sarasota.
A rendering released by Orlando City of what the complex should ultimately look like shows the baseball stadium intact. Fire Frogs officials assumed the county and SMG wants to move Orlando City B into the stadium for play league games; OHP/SMG General Manager Robb Larson said they were "exploring opportunities" for the stadium that include both sports.