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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food options at the Capital One Bowl are slightly above average overall. Selections include Italian sausage, jumbo turkey legs and Philly cheesesteak loaded fries. Prices mostly fall in the $12 to $15 range. This is not too terrible, but definitely nothing to jump at. Drinks will cost you anywhere from $5 to $10. Beer is sold at the bowl game, and a plus for having vendors that walk the aisles so you don't miss the action. Be prepared with your wallet, though, because a large can will cost you $10 a pop.
Bowl atmospheres in general are exciting and unique in several ways, but that's even more amplified by the Capital One Bowl affiliations. Outside the stadium you'll find the fan fest, which offers live music, games for the fans and all kinds of free takeaways. The walk to the game is lined with floats built out of oranges. Inside the stadium, you'll find more of the same, with two passionate fan bases going head to head in pageantry and noise almost as competitively as the battle on the field.
On the field, the game is always fiercely competitive, as it's usually the top billing matchup between the two powerhouse conferences, and there's a lot of pride on the line. The Capitol One Mascot Challenge is decided at halftime, with all 16 mascots making an appearance and getting involved.
So why not five stars? The stadium itself is your answer. Once you walk in you'll be greeted by dirty-looking concourses, narrow steps to the seating areas, old-looking bleacher seating straight out of a high school football stadium and a pathetic video board with an "Orlando" sign that looks straight out of the 70's. With everything this bowl has going for it, it'll be exciting to see what it can do with upgraded facilities next year.
The immediate neighborhood is nothing to brag about. If you're coming to the game, park in the huge lot on the fan fest side south of 408. The walk will feel safer and there will be a large crowd. If you're looking for cheaper parking, be wary. The area is not a good one. There's parking in a lot of areas that are boarded up and definitely less than safe-looking. Obviously you'll be around a crowd at a game of this magnitude, but aesthetically there's a lot to be desired, and I wouldn't want to be the last one there tailgating.
Overall, the larger area has a lot to offer. You're 20-30 minutes up the road from Disney. What better way to celebrate your team's victory at the Capital One Bowl than to watch some primetime bowl games at the ESPN Zone at the Disney Boardwalk? There's definitely a selection of hotels and packages to be had around the area if your team visits for the bowl game, but staying near Disney seems like a must. The Pep Rally is the day before, not far from Disney at Point Orlando, so there's an extra benefit. If that's not your thing, several blocks east of the stadium is downtown Orlando and the Church Street area, where you can find bars, entertainment and the Orlando Magic.
Because it's tied to the Big Ten and SEC as an upper-tier bowl game, you can expect to get elite programs from two of the most successful programs and passionate fan bases in the country. There's definitely an exciting contrast at tailgates, with the Big Ten's passionate fans cooking up brats next to SEC fans with turkey legs and collards.
Inside the stadium, you'll find more of the same. The Capital One Bowl has a cool tradition of allowing each school to bring one tradition to the game, with the stadium accommodating so you can get a glimpse of the home-field flavor. In this case, the Gamecock fans had "Sandstorm" blaring with white towels waving after each touchdown, while the Badgers rocked their half of the stands with "Jump Around" after the third quarter. Of course the fan bases of these two schools don't need the extra incentive to be loud and supportive, just like most Big Ten and SEC fan bases that go to a high-end bowl game. You definitely couldn't ask for anything more here.
Access is a mixed bag. For one thing, it's surprisingly easy to get to and park at the Capital One Bowl, even in a city known for its traffic. Just take I-4 either north or south (depending on your starting location) to 408 and head west. Within a couple miles, you'll be right next to the stadium. It's surprisingly light on traffic. My best advice? Pay the $20-$25 to park in the athletic fields south of 408 between Tampa Avenue and Rio Grande Avenue. The walk is easy, and you'll have no trouble getting in and out. If you try to spend too much time searching for cheaper parking and driving around, you'll find yourself in some unsavory areas.
On the other hand, when you get into the stadium, you can expect sub-par access. Although there are some steel ramps, the stadium isn't built well for handicapped access. There's no ground access or winding ramps, it's all narrow staircases that get very congested. The facilities aren't much better. Everything seems dirty, and most of the concessions are not built into the stadium and are instead trailers or tables set up for the event. There's a lot of choke points.
Capital One Bowl tickets for reserved seats through the universities will run about $90, but you can get tickets through the Capital One Bowl for much cheaper. The seats for the cheaper tickets will likely be leftovers, though. Parking will run $20 to $25, which is pretty reasonable, considering some of the parking prices you'll pay for major college football games. All in all, it's more affordable than bowl games at some of the much nicer venues. Is that a positive or a negative? I'll have to leave that up to the buyer.
The biggest reason to give extra points here is the uniqueness of the atmosphere. Rarely do you get to go to a college football game that is split down the middle with passionate fans, so I'd tell anyone to take advantage of a great bowl game matchup like this. The Capital One Fan Fest outside the stadium is definitely worth a point for bringing in famous talent for concerts and giving away all kinds of free stuff. Just don't expect to get a beer without a ten-minute wait.
Overall, this is an awesome experience if you can ignore the stadium itself. As a college football fan, I'm excited to see what a redesigned Citrus Bowl brings for the Capital One Bowl in the future.
Member Review by JimFolsom on Jan 05, 2013
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.
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