Big Ten: Citrus Bowl Stadium
The mayors of Orlando and Orange County announced Monday that they've reached an agreement to revive renovations to the Citrus Bowl Stadium. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel that the city will issue at least $140 million in bonds to help finance the project. Construction would begin in early 2014.
In 2009, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany expressed concerns about the aging stadium, calling it "a venue that has fallen behind." Big Ten teams played two bowl games in Orlando -- Capital One and Champs Sports -- during the 2006-2009 seasons, but re-upped only with Capital One for the current bowl cycle (2010-13). A renovation had been scheduled to begin in 2009, but the economic crisis changed things.
Monday's commitment to a renovation increases the likelihood the Big Ten keeps the Capital One Bowl on its next postseason lineup.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
The 76-year-old stadium, which hosts the Capital One Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl and Florida Classic, is slated for a major retrofit. It would get a new lower bowl with 8,000 club seats; additional restrooms and concessions; a wider, more modern concourse; new locker rooms and media rooms; banquet space and a ballroom; and possibly more suites.
A new playing surface was installed at the Citrus Bowl in 2010, months after Penn State and LSU played on an embarrassingly poor field during the 2010 bowl game.
The Capital One Bowl often pairs two top 10 teams, and with the bowl landscape shifting after 2014 because of a likely four-team playoff, it needed to make upgrades. Good to see.
Although the 2010 Muck Bowl, er, Capital One Bowl, went in Penn State's favor Jan. 1 in Orlando, the game gained notoriety for the appallingly poor field conditions at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. The aesthetic component really matters to bowl games; they're supposed to look good on TV, and this one didn't.
Needless to say, Wednesday's announcement that a new playing surface will be installed at Citrus Bowl Stadium was welcome news. Installation of an AstroTurf field will begin immediately and is scheduled to be completed by September.
“Hosting a large number of events in short time windows have challenged the ability to provide optimum field conditions and paint schemes needed for national television," Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said in a prepared statement. "With this improvement, we are very excited about our ability to provide one of the safest, most technologically-advanced playing surfaces in the industry to our customer.”
The Big Ten's new bowl lineup includes only one game, the Capital One Bowl, at Citrus Bowl Stadium. The league previously had participated in the Champs Sports Bowl there.
"This new AstroTurf field is part of the city of Orlando’s $10 million investment in phase one improvements this year at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium,” Orlando Venues executive director Allen Johnson said in a prepared statement.
I got a bit concerned when I saw the word AstroTurf, remembering the rock-hard, ligament-busting fields at places like Veterans Stadium and the Metrodome. But the selected surface is an advanced product with a cool-sounding name (GameDay Grass 3D) that performs a lot like natural grass.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others had voiced concerns about Citrus Bowl Stadium and its viability to host a premier event like the Capital One Bowl. Let's face it: after the BCS games, the Capital One Bowl is about as good as it gets.
Now the bowl can look the part.
Here's the latest weather conditions:
Minnesota at the Insight Bowl (Tempe, Ariz., kickoff at 6 p.m. ET): Sunny, temperatures between 57-63 degrees, winds at 6-7 mph.
Northwestern at the Outback Bowl (Tampa, kickoff at 11 a.m. ET): Showers possible overnight and slight chance of showers after kickoff. Temperatures between 60-65 degrees, winds at 15-20 mph.
Penn State at the Capital One Bowl (Orlando, kickoff at 1 p.m. ET): Chance of showers in the morning, should be out of the area by kickoff. Temperatures between 58-64 degrees, winds at 10-15 mph.
Ohio State at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi (Pasadena, Calif., kickoff at 4:30 p.m. ET): Mostly cloudy skies, temperatures between 62-70 degrees, winds at 5-7 mph.
Anyone who watched the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday night knows the field conditions at Citrus Bowl Stadium could be an issue for Penn State and LSU on Friday. The stadium hosted eight high school state championship games earlier this month, and the field has been replaced multiple times.
Here's the problem, according to The (Allentown) Morning Call:
The city replaced the stadium's turf Dec. 24, as it has done prior to past bowl games (Orlando has hosted two bowls for the past eight years). But unseasonably cool weather prohibited the grass from growing horizontally or vertically, causing the problems, said Heather Allebaugh, spokesperson for Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer.
"They're working around the clock to get the field into good condition for the Capital One Bowl," Allebaugh said. "Our grass is high quality, the same turf that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use. We hold ourselves to a high standard. I don't know if it was the best [situation], but I don't know if it's the worst, either."Read more on the field conditions here and here. After a night of possible showers, it could be a sloppy track Friday.