Most of this has been announced, but now there’s more clarity to the plan: Orlando City SC training facilities will include Osceola Heritage Park for the team’s development academy and the MLS team, and Sylvan Lake Park for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.
It had been previously announced that Osceola Heritage Park would serve as a new Orlando City SC training complex, with renovations expected to be complete this year. Located in Osceola County and Kissimmee, Osceola Heritage Park was formerly used for spring training by Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, featuring a ballpark and surrounding training fields. The ballpark, currently used by baseball’s Florida Fire Frogs (High A; Florida State League), will remain in place, with the new Orlando City SC training complex developed over the former baseball training fields and parking areas. When announced, the team said the Osceola Heritage Park complex would serve as training base for the MLS team and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.
But those plans have changed.
The Orlando City Development Academy is set to move to at the start of the 2019-20 academic year, while the Lions will remain at Sylvan Lake Park, their current training facility, through the end of the 2019 MLS season. Orlando City B, the Club’s USL League One side, will finish its first season in League One at Montverde Academy before moving its training operations to Osceola Heritage Park for the 2020 season.
“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,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said. “I think it’s a huge step for the Club, for the First Team, for the youth, for OCB and for the whole development pyramid of the Club. 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?”
Newly appointed Academy Director Marcelo Neveleff will oversee both the Development Academy and OCB, working directly with Muzzi to build the Club’s development pyramid and lay a pathway for players from the Academy to the Club’s First Team.
“I can’t emphasize the importance of having everyone together, having everyone in the same building. You have the First Team players, the Academy players and the OCB players all working under the same philosophy; they’re all working together and there’s a family atmosphere about what you are trying to do,” Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor said. “Having come through an academy system myself, it’s something I want to be able to do. I want to be able to give opportunities to young players.”
The 20-acre training complex will feature four fields–three natural grass and one artificial turf–a fitness, training and recovery center; film review room; as well as a players’ lounge and meal room. The First Team will be allocated two of the grass fields, with OCB and the Development Academy sharing the remaining grass field and the turf field.
The change in plans means the Orlando Pride will be the prime tenant at the Sylvan Lake Park training complex, which will undergo a renovation at the end of the 2019 MLS season. The Pride will be the only NWSL team at a training complex tailored to and used only by a women’s team.
“I think this [move] is building the sustainability of the Club and of the franchise and it shows that, you know what, we’re here to stay,” Orlando Pride General Manager Erik Ustruck said. “We’re showing a commitment to Seminole County, we’re showing a commitment to the Pride and that vision becomes global. This isn’t only for the immediate future and the current team, but it’s also to become a destination for the future of the Club, for the future of the franchise and to be able to attract top-class players from around the world and within the NWSL.”
Like the Club’s new training complex at Osceola Heritage Park, the Seminole County facility will feature a gym, meal room, film room, players’ lounge and a locker room designed to replicate the team’s locker room at Orlando City Stadium. In addition, the Pride will have two Club-maintained, grass training fields that will be exclusive to the team–providing the Pride access to the same facilities and amenities as the MLS side.
The complex will also house the Club’s technical and medical staff, as well as exclusive areas for the team’s media operations.
“[The training facility] is such a big, big part of what the players are trying to do, what they need to do and their identity. To have such a special place, where they can be really, truly themselves, [a space] that they own, I think it’s beyond what some people get in their wildest dreams. I think this is a huge statement from the Club to show their ongoing support for the Pride,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “Having this facility is saying to everybody: ‘We’re here, we’re real and we’re something that you want to get behind.’”
The Pride will finish out the 2019 season at their current facility located at Seminole Soccer Complex before moving to their new state-of-the art training ground at the start of their fifth NWSL season in 2020.