Citrus Bowl in Orlando throws name into NFL Pro Bowl conversation

By Jesse Reed
Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; General view of the field during the first quarter the game between the Florida Gators and the Michigan Wolverines in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the waning popularity of the NFL Pro Bowl, there are some major U.S. cities still interested in hosting the glorified flag-football game for the next few years. Joining the fray is the Citrus Bowl in the city of Orlando, Fla., as the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday.

“We’ve been very aggressively trying to showcase Orlando,” said Steve Hogan, Florida Citrus Sports CEO. “We believe it is the best city to host the Pro Bowl, and the NFL has given us the opportunity to pitch our city. We hope when all is said and done, we’re going to be hosting the game.”

The NFL is reportedly seeking $2.5 million from the group for the bid.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs of Orange County would conditionally support the bid, per the report. Her support is “predicated on freeing up Tourist Development Tax dollars to help secure the bid, which would include hosting fees. Any assistance in the form of tourist taxes would require an amendment to the spending plan for money raised by the 6 percent levy added to hotel rooms.”

Of further note is the $207 million in recent renovations to the Citrus Bowl, which already hosts the Orlando City SC and a few big college football events, including the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dryer confirmed his city is currently discussing the proposal to host the NFL Pro Bowl.

“Yes there are conversations about relocating the Pro Bowl to Orlando and we are extremely supportive of that,” Dyer said. “That is exactly why we felt it was important to rebuild the Citrus Bowl, and why we think we are one of the best sporting destinations in the country.”

The NFL is also considering other options, of course.

Per the report, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press that Houston (site of the upcoming Super Bowl), Honolulu (where the NFL Pro Bowl has traditionally been held) and Sydney, Australia are also being considered from 2017-2019.

Given commissioner Roger Goodell’s owner-driven push to make the NFL an international game, the smart move might be to choose Sydney, especially in light of Jarryd Hayne’s emergence with the San Francisco 49ers.

Still, Florida has successfully hosted the Pro Bowl before and is a popular tourist destination. The families brought along to experience the big event with the players would have plenty of fun things to do, and costs would potentially be minimized by keeping the event in the states.