Published in: Orlando Business Journal
Author: Richard Bilbao
Local sports organizers expect the 76-year-old Citrus Bowl to generate a $300 million annual economic impact from sports events once its $189 million makeover is completed by late 2014.
That's in comparison to the $80 million in sports-related economic impact it now generates each year.
The reason for the expected 275 percent increase: The planned upgrades may turn the Citrus Bowl from being the region's weakest tool in attracting sporting events - think the infamous 2010 "Mud Bowl" - to a formidable weapon in bringing new business to town.
Allen Johnson, city of Orlando venues director, said the reconstruction of the Florida Citrus Bowl should allow the city to aim for bigger, better games. "We will work to attract more events such as college and pre-season NFL neutral site football games, international soccer games, WrestleMania, Monster Truck and Motocross, concerts/music festivals, state football championships, band competitions and lacrosse tournaments, " he said.
One good strategy would be to talk to schools like Notre Dame and top-notch conferences about bringing neutral-site regular season football games to Orlando after the renovations are completed, said Bill Sutton, a sports expert and director of the sports and entertainment management program at the University of South Florida.
Florida Citrus Sports, the organizer and operator of the Capital One and Russell Athletic bowl games, also wants to put Orlando on the list of the NCAA's potential spots for the 2014-15 Bowl Championship Series games. "I believe the renovated facility will put us into position to host one," said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports.
In June, the NCAA approved a four-team playoff series that would host games at various stadiums nationwide. The economic impact for most BCS-level games is upward of $240 million for the host city.
In addition, Hogan wants to attract neutral-site National Football League games that each could result in $40 million in economic impact, as well as international soccer games.
But don't overestimate the renovations, as there is heavy competition when it comes to adequate stadiums, said Patrick Rishe, director of Webster Groves, Mo.-based SportsImpacts, a sports market research firm. "The Citrus Bowl is at a comparative disadvantage relative to newer facilities," he said. "And given the enormity of the investments made in places like Cowboys Stadium, Reliant Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium, it's hard to imagine a $200 million renovation of the Citrus Bowl would be enough to turn heads."
However,"Besides keeping the existing events we get, bringing in new business should be the secondary goal of this Citrus Bowl project. Bringing more value to our visitors is very important, and this should help."
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