Orlando – the soccer capital of the Southeast?
Maybe. Orlando City Soccer this week announced its expansion into women’s soccer with the formation of the Orlando Pride (Lions, Pride . . . get it?). The team will be the 10th in the National Women’s Soccer League and the only team in the Southeast. In fact, it is the southernmost team in the league – edging out Houston by a little more than 1 degree of latitude.
Fully owned and operated by Orlando SC, the team will begin play next year at the Citrus Bowl and then join its brother club move to the new soccer stadium. The team already has a head coach, Tom Sermanni. He previously has coached the U.S. and Australian national women’s soccer teams.
In addition to being a boon to local soccer fans, the birth of the Pride also furthers Mayor Buddy Dyer’s vision of creating an interlocking sports and entertainment complex in and around downtown. The mayor routinely has cited the benefits of the new stadium’s neighborhood, including his Oct. 22 State of Downtown Address where he said, “The new soccer stadium is a catalyst for a renaissance in Parramore. More than 25 businesses have opened in Parramore in the past year.” Certainly a second team in the facility will increase its number of events which in turn creates new incentives for business growth and expansion in the area.
The new team will fill its roster primarily via a league expansion draft (where the Pride will be able to take “unprotected” players from other teams), a preferential position in the regular college draft and other mechanisms that do not remotely resemble the signing process in most team sports.
And, if you aren’t familiar with the three-year-old NWSL, here’s a link to its home page: http://nwslsoccer.com.
Orlando City Still a Top Draw
One of the measures of the Pride’s success obviously will be attendance. NWSL teams average about 5,000 in attendance (though some draw double that), and the recent league championship game attracted more than 13,000 fans.
The best initial gauge of how the new team might fare can be found by looking at the Orlando SC Lions. The team opened strong at the Citrus Bowl and is still going strong even after the novelty has worn off. According to the Soccer Stadium Digest website, the Lions are averaging (as of Oct. 18) 32,847 fans through 17 matches. The average attendance across all MLS matches is slightly more than 22,000 fans.
That’s part of the reason why the stadium’s capacity, originally set to be slightly less than the league average, has been increased to 25,500 fans. It’s also why Dyer and other civic leaders are increasingly upbeat about the role soccer can play in downtown Orlando’s economic future.
Orlando City Soccer debuted a 47-minute documentary filmed by Decio Lopes, Making History, premiered at the Orlando Film Festival on Oct. 21, with a repeat showing on Sat., Oct. 25. It captures the soccer fever contagion in Central Florida.
Jags-Bills Game an NFL First
Seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars play a game in London has become old hat by now. How their game against the Buffalo Bills will be brought to the world this Sunday morning (9:30 a.m. Eastern) is a landmark for the NFL.
Unless you live in Jacksonville or Buffalo, you won’t find the game on your television. Instead, you’ll find it on Yahoo.
That’s right – Yahoo.
The network scored a coup against its powerful rivals (think Google) when it signed a deal to stream the game live. What’s the big deal? Lots of games are streamed. Subscribers to DirecTV’s Sunday ticket can watch games on their mobile devices. Major League Baseball streams all its games. True, but the DirecTV and MLB games as well as most (though not all) college games that are streamed are games already being broadcast by over-the-air networks or on cable. Streaming is supplementary.
This game is just the opposite. Streaming is the primary way the game will be transmitted; the broadcasts on the Buffalo and Jacksonville CBS affiliates are a courtesy to the teams’ hometown fans.
The NFL has stressed that this is a one-time experiment, to allow it to determine exactly what it takes to stream its content, and that financial considerations (i.e. Yahoo’s broadcast fee) is secondary. Think for a moment about the implications for the future, though. The NFL is promoting this as a worldwide event and promoting it via the hashtag #WatchWithTheWorld.
If you’re looking for financial benefits from the game, though, look no further than the Jaguars. When the Jaguars made a four-year commitment to play one game a season in London, it was to offset falling local revenues (the team ranks 30th in the 32-team NFL). The Florida Times-Union reports that the London game brings double the normal ticket revenue and now accounts for about 15 percent of the team’s “local” revenue.
New NBC Sports Venue at Universal
Sports can generate local revenue a variety of ways, and NBC found a new one this week. With sportscasters Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Hines Ward and Michelle Tafoya from the network’s NFL Sunday Night Football leading the way, the network opened its first-ever NBC Sports Grill & Brew at Orlando’s Universal CityWalk on Oct. 22.
The location for the network’s inaugural sport venture is logical. The network and Universal Studios are both part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit.
Rival Disney tried a similar venture more than 15 years ago when it opened a series of ESPNZone restaurants. Beginning in 1998 in Baltimore, the restaurants eventually appeared in a number of large, sports-crazed cities around the country. After enjoying initial success, the venture stumbled a decade later. Most of the ESPNZones closed by late 2010, and the sole remaining restaurant is – appropriately –at Disneyland in California.
In a convergence of sports and real estate, fired Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin recently listed his 6,700-square-foot mansion for $2.5 million. With a lot of unhappy Dolphin fans, the old adage don’t let the door hit you on the way out applies with his 24-28 record with the team.