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Orlando begins $200 million Citrus Bowl renovation


Published:   |   Updated: January 30, 2014 at 03:13 PM

A $200 million renovation of the Florida Citrus Bowl began Wednesday with hopes of bringing a college football national championship and other major events to Orlando.

A crane yanked down the stadium's scoreboard during a cold, rainy ceremony, beginning a 10-month project that will raze and rebuild the lower bowl, and add club seats, luxury suites and a digital video scoreboard.

About 80 percent of the 77-year-old stadium will be torn down, with only the upper deck remaining intact.

The rebuilt stadium will feature wider concourses, modernized restrooms, more leg room for fans and an open-air exterior, according to early plans released by the city.

Seating capacity will decrease from 71,000 to 65,000.

Crews will work in 24-hour shifts to complete the project by November before the annual Florida Classic football game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman.

The renovation was approved by the city and Orange County in 2007 as part of a $1.1 billion downtown venue plan using mostly tourist taxes, but was put on hold because of the recession.

Florida Citrus Sports president Tony Massey says the stadium will be ready to host a College Football Playoff title game, and the city plans to bid. The next available opening is for the 2017-18 seasons. Tampa will host the 2016-17 game.

Orlando will also attempt to bring in other marquee events, such as concerts, preseason NFL games and neutral-site college games.

The stadium already hosts the Capital One Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, MEAC/SWAC challenge and Florida Classic.

The Citrus Bowl opened in 1936 as a public works project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Its largest attendance, 74,635, was for Wrestlemania XXIV in 2008.

 Tinker Field, an adjacent minor-league baseball stadium, will be torn down and rebuilt at  a nearby location to accommodate the Citrus Bowl's larger footprint. The 91-year-old ballpark was on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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