For the first time in twenty years, Camping World Stadium (formerly known as Florida Citrus Bowl), held an NFL game and gives fans in the area a sneak peek of the Pro Bowl coming in 2017, but the city of Orlando deserves more than what they are getting.
Back in June, the NFL announced they would move the Pro Bowl to Orlando from Hawaii for the next two years with a mutual option for the third including a preseason game between the Dolphins and Falcons which happened on Thursday night at the stadium that drew a crowd of 45,974. 45,974 isn’t a bad number to have when you’ve held your first NFL preseason game (Bucs vs Jets) for the first time since 1997.
The NFL used to hold preseason games at the Citrus Bowl, but as years went on, the stadium deteriorated and was no longer a popular fit to hold events there. Fast forward to 2016 and the stadium underwent a $207 million renovation that brought life back to the facility thanks to city officials of Orlando. The stadium currently holds Orlando City soccer games from MLS, Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, and two college bowl games – the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl. Earlier this year, they held the group stage for one of soccer’s most prestigious events, Copa America Centenario and WrestleMania back in 2008 with a return in 2017.
Without the renovations, it would be just a facility taking up space. Both Orlando soccer teams are moving into a new stadium soon, but until then they will play at Camping World Stadium. When they move out, the city will have to look for more events to hold inside the stadium other than just two annual college bowl games or else the money they used for renovations will go to waste. That’s why the NFL should look into an expansion team or moving a team with stadium lease issues to Orlando.
With the recent move of the Rams back to Los Angeles, Orlando is now the largest market without an NFL team. The momentum on this idea has picked up ever since the NFL made their Pro Bowl announcement and it’s time for them to capitalize. Some might say it’s not smart to put a team in between Tampa Bay and Jacksonville because of how close it is to see their team, but the city needs more sporting events. They only hold two professional sports teams – Orlando Magic and Orlando City – unless, of course, you count the Orlando Predators of Arena League football. There’s no NHL team or MLB to root for here and it would be smart for the NFL to fill the void.
The last time the NFL had an expansion draft was in 2002 for the Houston Texans and if they were to have an expansion team, they would also need to add another team besides Orlando to make the conferences even unless the San Diego Chargers or Oakland Raiders look to move here as their stadium leasing issues continue, as mentioned before. The Raiders are looking at a move to Las Vegas, but that idea is still on hold. The league also have the international series in London at Wembley Stadium and continue to entertain the idea of an NFL team there at some point in the future.
There’s a few ideas the NFL can look into in order for Orlando to get a team, but for right now, I think what they are doing with the city of Orlando by bringing preseason games and the Pro Bowl for the next few years is a good start. If Orlando city officials really want an NFL team, they have to bring in other sporting events to attract the league like the Olympics for soccer games or the FIFA World Cup should the United States receive hosting rights for these events in the near future. As for the fans, they should continue to support these events. The future looks bright for another professional team in Orlando and if they show the NFL that they deserve a team, it’s going to happen, eventually.