Formerly home to the UCF Golden Knights, the Orlando Citrus Bowl is one of a handful of stadiums across the country that does not currently serve as the home stadium for any FBS team, but is only used for special events like bowl games (and Monster Jam). For many years, it has hosted both the Citrus Bowl (currently sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings) and the Russell Athletic Bowl, but starting in 2016 will also host the AutoNation Cure Bowl. The stadium is currently owned by the City of Orlando, and has been renovated several times in the past decade, due to its previously deteriorating condition.
The 2015 Citrus Bowl featured two top 25 teams, the #16 Missouri Tigers versus the #25 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The stadium was fairly full by kickoff, though not exactly a sell-out. This is not uncommon in Florida, where fans joke that there just might be better things to do in Florida than watch football. This is probably especially true in Orlando given the proximity to Disney and other tourist attractions. However, the Citrus Bowl is a solid stadium given the recent renovations, and a top 25 match-up is certainly worth seeing, so this bowl is definitely a wonderful way to spend the New Year's holiday.
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Food at the Citrus Bowl is more expensive than you will find at most other stadiums; for example, a side of fries costs $4.50, and a bottle of soda runs $5.50. You will certainly find all of the standard fare, including pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs, as well as some more exotic fare on the plaza deck, where you will pay a little more - $10 for fish tacos or a BBQ sandwich. On the plus side, the concession stands are easy to get to, since they are very close to the seats, but some of the lines can be very long. They do sell beer, though, since this is not really a college stadium.
But the high prices and long lines are not the only food disappointments if you attend the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl - there are no Buffalo Wild Wings! That would be like the Chick-fil-A Bowl not having any chicken sandwiches, or cows, which, of course they do. Understandably, wings may not be the easiest thing to prepare in an ill-equipped concession stand, but come on - it is just sad when the title sponsor can't figure out a way to promote its own product, especially when it is a food people crave.
Sports commentators often complain that there are too many bowl games nowadays, but they also talk about the pageantry of it all and how sad it would be to lose that if the bowls were to disappear in the ever-changing world of college football, where it sometimes feels like all that matters anymore is the money and the TV ratings. In the case of the Citrus Bowl, pageantry is a perfect description.
The pre-game festivities are amazing, including the band performances, the myriad baton twirlers, the players walking on, and even a flyover by Air Force jets. The weather is absolutely fabulous, which can usually be expected in Orlando. The crowd is also great, and the stadium itself is superb - there are plenty of entrances into the stands from both above and below, which makes it very easy to get to and from your seats. Also, because of how the stadium is laid out, you can see the game from almost anywhere, so you won't miss much of the action while walking to and from the bathrooms. Another plus is the great view of Lake Lorna Doone, which directly abuts the stadium.
It feels wrong to complain about location when you are talking about a stadium in Orlando, but the Citrus Bowl is located in a quasi-commercial district, and most of the nearby buildings are pretty run-down. There isn't much of anything in the immediate vicinity, let alone bars or restaurants. Mostly there are fields used for parking, and a lake on one side, so even though you are actually in the middle of a big city, it feels almost isolated, like the stadium is the only thing there. But of course, it is Orlando, so there are plenty of tourist attractions to be had within driving distance, with at least two major freeways within sight of the stadium.
The Citrus Bowl has a great crowd; it was impressive to see the large number of fans from each side that traveled to see the game. There were plenty of maroon-attired fans mixed in with the black and gold, although probably a few more rooting for Missouri. Both sets of fans were really into the game, and cheered loudly when their team made a great play, or booed angrily when the replay official somehow just didn't see things the way they did. It is always interesting to attend a neutral-site game like this, because on every play you get a fairly even mix of happy fans and unhappy ones. As such, you never quite achieve that dream-like euphoria where sixty thousand-plus are screaming wildly in unison. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm was definitely present on both sides.
The Citrus Bowl is very easy to get to, given its proximity to major freeways, and you can be back on the road within minutes of the game ending. Plenty of cash parking is available right outside the stadium, so it is a very short walk to get inside. Once inside the stadium, there are plenty of entrances into the stands, both from above and below, making it easy to get to your seats, which are all chairbacks. In addition, there are concession stands and bathrooms located right outside the stands, so you don't have to walk very far to get to them. The only downside is that the lines at some of the facilities can be long, especially near the end zones. However, there are bathrooms and concession stands on the plaza deck (above the lower bowl on the east and west sides) that have little or no waiting, since there are very few fans sitting in those areas.
Tickets for this game cost about $50 each, and parking is only $20. While the food and souvenirs are a bit on the pricey side, from a cost perspective, a trip to the Citrus Bowl for a game is definitely well worth the price.
One point for the view of Lake Lorna Doone from inside the stadium - how often do you get to visit a stadium that sits on a lake?
Another point goes for the weather - it is always warm in Orlando, and if you are lucky, you just might get a little cloud cover to dampen the sun and minimize the threat of sunburn.
A third point is given for the flyover by the two Air Force jets (the pilots will even be introduced during the third quarter).
Another point is awarded for the chairback seats - after you have been to over 140 college football games in more than 100 stadiums, you may better appreciate not having to sit on cold metal bleachers.
Last, but definitely not least, one big point for the cultural relevance. For those who do not know, the Citrus Bowl was actually used as the main football filming location for the movie Waterboy, serving as the home stadium for UL, as well as the site of the Bourbon Bowl. The Citrus Bowl was also used as the home stadium for the Orlando Breakers in the TV series Coach. How many stadiums can make that claim?
This is a great stadium to visit if you are in the Orlando area around the New Year's holiday. You can be assured of a choice of quality bowl match-ups, with tons of unique features and extras to make the trip even more worthwhile.
New Year’s Day and college football just go together, much like Thanksgiving Day and the NFL or Memorial Day and auto racing. Nowhere is this truer than Florida, which hosts four New Year’s Day Bowl games -- three of which kick off between 12:00 and 1:00 in the afternoon. All three of these bowl games pit teams from the SEC against the teams from the Big Ten, which has created a sort of “Big Ten-SEC Challenge” element to the games.
The biggest of the three games is the Capital One Bowl, held in Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. This is the original Big Ten-SEC bowl matchup, and as such, this bowl gets first pick of the teams between the three games. The 2013 game featured the Georgia Bulldogs and Nebraska Cornhuskers, both of whom participated in their conference’s championship games.
The Capital One Bowl is played every year on New Year's Day in Orlando, Florida at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, and has largely been considered the highest-profile non-BCS Bowl. The game and its previous incarnations (the Tangerine Bowl and Citrus Bowl) have been played at the 65,000-plus capacity stadium since 1947. The powerhouse bowl game traditionally hosts upper-tier Big Ten and SEC teams, with the 2014 version played between the Wisconsin Badgers and South Carolina Gamecocks.
Despite the lofty standing of the Capital One Bowl as one of the premier non-BCS bowls, it’s being left out of the elite tier status with the advent of the college football playoff system next year. This is likely due to the stadium itself. In the SEC hierarchy alone, it’s ranked ahead of the Outback Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl, but is clearly the worst venue of those three lower-tiered bowl games. The stadium itself is dated and far from the venue you’d expect. There’s hope for the future though, as the city of Orlando plans to gut the existing stadium and turn it into a state-of-the-art facility by November of 2014. Will this have any impact on the future of the Capital One Bowl? Only time will tell.
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