If you ask someone to mention something significant in Orlando’s history, they may mention the development of the theme parks, but there’s more to The City Beautiful than that. Here, we take a look at some of the events that have helped to shape Orlando into the city it is today.
The University of Central Florida is Born
On Jan. 24, 1964, the Board of Controls (now known as the Board of Governors) approved 1,277 acres of land for the construction of UCF. This came seven months after Bill No. 125 was signed into law, officially creating a new state university. The approved site was near the lines of Orange and Seminole counties, 12 miles northeast of downtown Orlando. This area was selected due to its accessibility to the largest amount of people in northeast Orange County.
With this land, business, professional and government leaders could continue to work toward establishing a local educational facility for scientific and technical employees and where electronics and engineering companies could pursue advanced studies – all of which was in great dement. With the nearby Cape Canaveral and the new-at-the-time Martin Marietta facility in South Orange County creating a new generation of rocket missiles, the acreage was a small start for the school.
Now, 53 years later, UCF is the largest university in the state of Florida and the second largest in the nation. It has grown significantly since its humble beginnings, with more than a dozen campuses across Central Florida and a champion football team that earned a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game during its most recent season.
The First Soccer Team
The Orlando City Soccer Club wasn’t the first professional soccer team in Central Florida. It was the Orlando Lions of Altamonte Springs. The team’s International Exhibition Match was held on Jan. 18, 1992 against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and a ticket to watch the game cost only $2. The Orlando Lions soccer club existed until 1996, and the team competed at amateur and professional levels. The club joined the American Soccer League (ASL) in 1988 and the American Professional Soccer League in 1990 when the ASL merged with the Western Alliance, a league that featured teams from the west coasts of the United States and Canada. The Lions merged with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers after the 1990 season to create a unified team and club.
A Magical Race Begins
The “most magical race on Earth” takes place every January, along with three other races during the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend. This year, the event celebrates its 25th anniversary. The marathon’s scenic 26-mile course takes runners through all four of the Walt Disney theme parks. When the marathon was first established in 1994, Disney only had three theme parks, and the course was changed in 1995 to include Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. After Animal Kingdom opened in 1999, the course was changed yet again to give runners the opportunity to run among the animals.