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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Each New Year's Day, give or take a day, the state of Florida hosts three college football bowls featuring the top two conferences in the game, the SEC and the Big Ten. The most prestigious of the three is the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The other two games, the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and the Tax Slayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, are both played in glorious NFL stadiums with all the modern amenities. For the fans, while Orlando was a great vacation destination, going to the bigger Citrus Bowl almost seemed more like a punishment than a reward.
No more. The Citrus Bowl has undergone a huge face lift, adding three big video boards, chairs in nearly every seat instead of bleacher type benches, more seats as the East End Zone is now enclosed with new seats and both a very high-end indoor club area and a more open and more casual club level right beside it. With all the stadium improvements, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is now the biggest of the three Florida New Year's Day Bowls.
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".
Where to start? If you are a high roller, you can purchase access to the fancy club where you have fancy restaurant food served by people in white coats and chef's hats. This is a similar set-up to what you see at the Orlando Magic games at the Amway Center or the Daytona 500 Club at Daytona. You pay one price and all the food and drinks are included.
If you are not rich, but still have some extra spending cash, the more casual club seating next to that includes several bars and food counters where you have a wide selection on the menu. Many beers and mixed drinks are available, as well as a wide variety of food selections. You pay for what you eat and drink in this section, but all the popcorn and peanuts are free.
If you are just a regular fan, sitting in the seats,watching the game, there are plenty of different food options for you, as well. There are stands with items such as Polish sausages with fries, Italian sausages with fries, Philly cheese steaks with fries, and foot long corn dogs with fries, for $12.00 each. There is also plenty to drink around the concourse level, as there are bars where you can get your favorite cocktails or frozen margaritas, and beer stands with both domestics and imports.
Of course, there are many concession stands with your standards, including burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, popcorn, sodas and frozen lemonades. The selection is excellent, and pricing is fairly typical for a stadium event.
In the 2016 edition, the Michigan Wolverines under first-year Head Coach Jim Harbaugh were taking on the Florida Gators under first-year Head Coach Jim McElwain. This was almost like two brothers playing each other. Both teams are high-profile programs, back after a few rough seasons under new leadership. Both fan bases were in a great mood, despite both being whipped by their arch-rivals. Neither team expected to be here, both felt like win or lose, it's been a good year. So there were no negative vibes from either side. This is not always the case at a bowl game.
The stadium was packed, even with the extra seating. It was loud throughout the first half when the game was close, with both fan bases being about equal in size, despite the game being in the Gators' back yard.
If there was one drawback, it might be that the lines at the concession stands were moving too slowly. Fans at the back of the lines at halftime probably missed the whole third quarter. It turned out they didn't miss much, though, as the Wolverines pummeled the Gators in the second half. Also, with all of the new club seating and all the extra concessions and such, the crowd was a bit more interested in checking everything out than watching the game at times. This took a bit away from the crowd noise.
The surrounding area near the stadium is a high-crime neighborhood. But since this was a big game, and played in the daytime, there was no need to worry about that. The neighbors used game day as an opportunity to make some spending money by allowing fans to park in their yards or on the street in front of their houses for $15 to $20. There was plenty of tailgating going on in the parking lots surrounding the stadiums, and the fans were having a great time in the hours leading up to the game. Florida fans and Michigan fans are both in agreement about their disdain for the Ohio State Buckeyes, so they all got along really well.
Next to the stadium, there was a Fan Fest that was open to everyone. There were bars set up and live music, along with VIP tents for the bigwigs, and also some cool stuff set up for the fans, such as a Ferris wheel and a zip line. If your team gets invited to this game, or if you are in Orlando on vacation around New Year's Day, get to this game early and check out the Fan Fest.
Both Florida and Michigan fans showed up. However, the game got out of hand early, and many fans either checked out and headed for their cars to beat the traffic, or lost interest in the game and went back to partying. With the way the game was going, it was hard to blame them.
In the first half, when the game was exciting, many of them sat in the club sections and drank, ate, and sat on the couches and talked about other things, rather than watch the game. But that happens at every modern sports event now, as stadiums have become more the attraction than the actual event.
The stadium is rather easy to get to. If coming from Gainesville, the trip takes a bit over an hour and a half. You take 75 South to the Turnpike, and you can get to I-4 from there. The tolls total about $4.00. If you come from Tampa or Daytona Beach, it's a straight shot on I-4. When you see the Amway Center where the Magic play, turn off and if you want to, you can park there and take a shuttle down to the Citrus Bowl. This is not quite as easy as getting to a Dolphins game, but a lot easier than Raymond Jaymes Stadium or Everbank Field.
Ticket prices were fairly reasonable for a bowl game. Many people felt it was worth the extra money for club access. The full experience could likely be had for around $200.00 per fan. That is a bit pricey for a lot of people, but try to spend a day at Disney World for that. You won't get far.
It might have been a bit better experience had the game been closer, but the rest of it was a lot of fun. The tailgate parties were great. I really was impressed with the Fan Fest. I also watched the team buses come to the stadium from the hotels and got some good pictures of the coaches and players walking into the stadium. The Florida Band serenaded the team with the fight song and other fan favorites, and the crowd cheered their team. It was much like the Gator Walk at the games in Gainesville.
Also, the weather was great. It was sunny and 85 degrees on January 1. If the game had been in Michigan, temps would have been in the low 30s. Michigan fans surely loved that, although it was a bit humid.
The new-look Citrus Bowl makes the stadium worthy of the game now. Instead of fans wondering if the Outback Bowl or Tax Slayer Bowl would have been a better outing, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is back to being the best bowl of the non-New Year's Six Games.
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.
Member Review by Drew4479 on Jan 19, 2014
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.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Jan 09, 2015
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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