After a more than two-year push to land a naming rights partner, Orlando City Stadium has a new name: Exploria Stadium.
Orlando City announced the sale of its stadium naming rights to Exploria Resorts Tuesday, with Exploria Stadium replacing Orlando City Stadium as the new name for the privately funded venue.
“It’s a box that needed to be checked,” Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão told the Orlando Sentinel during an interview following the announcement. “We’ve been waiting for the right partner and I feel like we have in Exploria Resorts, the perfect partner.”
Exploria Resorts is a timeshare and vacation rental company based in Clermont. It has portfolio of affiliated hotels, condos, homes and resorts available at destinations throughout the United States.
The the companies repeatedly declined to disclose financial details of the agreement, but Leitão made it clear the partnership is “long term.” Most naming-rights agreements in MLS are in the range of $2 million a year, according to Sports Business Journal Daily.
In 2018, the Chicago Fire inked a deal with SeatGeek to sell its naming rights, a contract likely to be worth between $2.5 million and $4 million per year, according to Bloomberg.
The announcement comes more than two years since the downtown stadium opened. Although finding a business partner took longer than expected, Leitão explained he “never” felt impatient and once the conversation started with Exploria Resorts, the deal “closed quickly.”
“I understand it’s a very important line of revenue, but it’s not a six month partnership,” Leitão said. “It’s a long term [partnership]. I wanted something our fans, our community, and ourselves [to] be proud of.”
As for Exploria, CEO and President Thomas Morris said the partnership is about bringing credibility to the brand.
“Exploria is not a household name and our goal all along was to provide some grand credibility,” Morris told reporters. “If you think about how popular soccer is here in Orlando as well as just across the country and how it’s growing, we believe we can leverage that for our brand credibility.”
The stadium was a key part of the Lions’ move up to Major League Soccer.
When support for public-private partnerships wavered and the club faced difficulty getting funding from the state in 2015, Orlando City SC majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva announced the new soccer-specific stadium would be privately funded and increased planned capacity from about 19,000 seats to its current 25,500 configuration.
The venue opened on in 2017 and has hosted Orlando City, Orlando Pride, She Believes Cup and U.S. men’s national team matches. The stadium is scheduled to host the MLS All-Star Game in July and the Cure Bowl in December.
Leitão told the Orlando Sentinel this deal was not done because the MLS-Star Game, which will be played in Orlando on July 31, is right around the corner.
He said the companies have forged a partnership that includes collaborating to support charitable causes throughout Central Florida. They plan to celebrate by hosting a free party for fans at the stadium on June 15. Fans can watch the Lions practice at 10 a.m. before the players field questions from fans, join fans in game zones and sign autographs.
“Of course it’s good to have [now],” Leitão said. “Nobody is looking for what is going to happen next month, or in the next two months or next six months. This is about a longer term partnership. We share the same passion of the game, the league, the organization. It made a lot of sense.”