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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Exploria Stadium – Orlando Pride


Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Exploria Stadium 655 W Church St Orlando, FL 32805

Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 25,500

 

The Pride Take the Stage

When professional soccer came to Orlando in the form of MLS Orlando City SC, many were surprised at the level of support the team received in their new stadium right off the bat. The women’s soccer team, the Orlando Pride, was introduced to the city’s sports scene soon afterward and quickly became equally as popular as the men’s team among the city’s sports enthusiasts.


The addition of world-class talent from America and abroad made the team an instant favorite and a perennial title contender. Exploria Stadium, their home, is also arguably the best in women’s professional soccer in the US, having hosted the NWSL Championship in 2017.


Food & Beverage 5

The food and beverages at Exploria Stadium for MLS games echo what you will find at Orlando City matches. The standards are all there, from pizza ($12) and burgers to hot dogs ($5-$9.50) and nachos ($7.25), and fans can choose from this traditional stadium fare. However, thanks to fan feedback the team has also added concessions from local restaurants in Orlando, such as 4 Rivers, The Coop, and Cholo Dogs.


Exploria Stadium has concession stands throughout the entirety of the main concourse on all sides during games, meaning you usually won’t have to wait too long or go too far to get something to eat or drink. Beer and cocktails range from $10.50 to $19.50, while water ($5), soda ($6.25), and Gatorade ($6.25) are all available. Tacos from Black Rooster Taqueria are $14, with loaded nachos ($15), chips and salsa ($7.25), and chips and guac ($7.25) on offer as well. BBQ from 4 Rivers is the big hit, with pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches and nachos all running for $15.


Atmosphere 4

The feeling at Exploria Stadium during Orlando Pride games is immediately and wholly impressive from the moment fans walk in. This modern gem of a soccer-specific stadium harkens to proper football establishments throughout England. The north end zone, aka The Wall, is a standing-only supporters section where fans cheer, sing, fly their flags, raise tifos, and erupt with smoke bombs every time the Pride scores throughout the entirety of the game, and the energy never stops regardless of the score on the field.

While the lower bowl is the only seating available for Orlando Pride games, leaving the upper levels empty, the seating on the upper east sideline spells out O-R-L-A-N-D-O in yellow seats against their purple counterparts, helping make the emptiness seem like a non-issue. However, while the home fans are loud, it is hard not to notice that filling the upper levels could add that missing factor on game day.


Neighborhood 5

What can you say about downtown Orlando? Exploria Stadium is a few blocks from the popular Church Street district, the hub of Orlando’s rebirth as a foodie and entertainment destination. The City of Orlando has become a sports-thirsty destination over the last few years – with the explosion in popularity of Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride, and a renewed interest in the Orlando Magic and Orlando Solar Bears, the City Beautiful loves sports.


The immediate area around Exploria Stadium includes suburbs to the west and the downtown city center to the east. There are tons of hotels nearby, and since the stadium sits only two blocks from I-4, getting to other resorts and hotels in the greater Orlando area is not hard to do either. Fans can easily stay at the Crowne Plaza Orlando-Downtown, Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, or the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Downtown, and still walk to the arena with ease.


Aside from those lodging options, there are numerous hotels and resorts in the Orlando area, both downtown and to the south towards the theme parks – Disney’s resorts, arguably the farthest from Exploria Stadium, are just 30 minutes away without traffic.


If you want to see the sights, Lake Eola Park is just a few blocks away; this park is an Orlando landmark that is also home to a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, and you can also find another quality farmer’s market on weekends outside of Exploria Stadium. Also, being in Orlando you are just a short drive from Walt Disney World, Sea World, and the Universal Studios theme parks.


Fans 4

The Orlando Pride faithful are among the best in sports. For each game, the lower bowl fills with soccer fans from across central Florida who want to get a glimpse of the country’s best stars from international competitions. The Wall becomes the center of the singing and chanting throughout the game, and the whole stadium erupts whenever goals are scored by the Pride players.

Orlando Pride fans are also among the most inclusive and family-friendly in professional sports – while other cities have their fans, few fill out the seats like those in Orlando.


Access 5

Exploria Stadium, and all of Orlando’s professional sports stadiums downtown, are refreshingly easy to get to. Driving on I-4 you pass within a few yards of Amway Center, and can easily see Exploria Stadium just two blocks beyond, so not finding the facility is almost impossible. But if you do somehow get lost, signs all around downtown point the way to the facility.


There is no parking garage nor any parking lots at Exploria Stadium itself. The team owns and/or rents several lots in the area, however, and parking passes can be purchased (usually through third-party sellers) to park there. The Amway Center’s Geico Garage is also open for parking on Pride game days. That said, there are also countless parking options in the lots and fields around Exploria Stadium on game day in every direction. The City of Orlando also sells parking passes at a special rate for games in various lots in and around downtown Orlando.


In addition to the parking, several bus lines pass by Exploria Stadium, and the hub for Orlando’s Lynx bus system is right downtown, a mere 10-minute walk from the stadium’s gates. Fans also can take the SunRail train from the north and south, usually for free, on game days. Some stations drop you off right near the Amway Center, so a walk from the station to Exploria Stadium is short. All of that said, if you get to Exploria Stadium and can’t find somewhere to park or an easy way to get there, you simply aren’t looking.


Once inside, fans should note that the team uses a clear-bag policy, so bringing items into the game is going to be extremely limited.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets to Orlando Pride matches are lower than those for Orlando City SC, so you are saving right off the bat when it comes to face value for admission. Concessions prices are also relatively affordable, with the average person looking to spend about $10 to $15 for food and a drink. When also considering the incredible atmosphere in the stadium and the ease of finding the facility, you get a great option for a family that wants to see professional soccer with some of the best stars from around the world, without paying MLS prices.


Extras 4

The stadium features 49 rainbow-colored seats in the lower bowl, as a tribute to the 49 lives lost in the Pulse Night Club shooting. Pride games also feature The Wall for supporters of the Pride, where a tifo is raised before games, and smoke and music fill the air throughout the event.

While walking the main concourse, various local artists have contributed to the decor around the facility as well, and finally, Exploria Stadium features various additional seating and vantage points throughout the stadium for fans to consider, including Disney World’s Lion’s Den and the Sun Pass seating.


Final Thoughts

While many would discount women’s professional soccer as sub-par to its male counterparts, one could easily argue the opposite. Orlando has become a beacon of what to do right with professional soccer in America, and that success translates to Orlando Pride games at Exploria Stadium. With a talented team, a great facility, and easy access, this is one of the true hidden gems in all of Florida, and perhaps the country.

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