The National Football League (NFL) announced this week the Pro Bowl will return to Orlando for a fourth consecutive season in 2020.
The game staying for an additional year is considered a major win for the tourism industry. The Pro Bowl has generated more TV viewers than any other sporting event that Orlando has hosted since the Orlando Magic made the NBA finals a decade ago.
Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan thinks the tourism community and officials who have used revenue from tourist taxes to bring the game to Central Florida understand how it benefits Orlando.
“People are beginning to understand those benefits when you look at the massive reach,” Hogan told Florida Daily. “Economic impact is one metric that is consistent but when you think about what sporting events do in terms of brand marketing impact, impressions, media value, exposure for the destination, that’s been a hidden gem for a long time.”
Orange County will spend millions of tourist tax dollars to keep the game in Orlando. The Pro Bowl also comes with a week of festivities. Disney’s Wide World of Sports has been the biggest host, holding the NFL’s Fan Experience at the theme park. Other events are held across the city.
Hogan said one of Orlando’s biggest selling points is what it always offers: tons of hotel rooms, space for events and warm weather.
“I think our market has done a lot of things right,” Hogan told Florida Daily. “We are this family destination. We are very accessible, very international, very diverse, all of the hospitality aspects. That is what I think really worked for what the NFL has wanted to do with the Pro Bowl. But for the weather, everything else has been plusses.”
In 2017, it was just 50 degrees and wet in Orlando during the game, a far departure from the normal temperature in the city in January. The next year was warmer–but 76 degrees and torrential downpours were no fun for the players or the fans. The weather kept the game from being a sellout.
Hogan said the tourism community is learning from the NFL what it may take to keep the Pro Bowl beyond 2020 but stressed it will be key for Orlando to continue to embrace the game.
“This thing is working,” Hogan said. “It’s already working. This destination for what the NFL wants to do for the Pro Bowl works. There’s a ton of visitation. I think it is on the order of about 70 to 75 percent of the ticket holders week of and game day are from outside of our market. It’s that other 30 percent needs to continue to support these events long term for them to stay. That’s the key to holding on to events like the Pro Bowl. The local 30 percent has to do their job.”
Camping World Stadium is about to get $60 million in upgrades from tourist taxes whether or not the Pro Bowl returned to Orlando, At the start of the decade, the stadium got a $200 million facelift.
“There was always this sentiment in the background to say we know we’ve got to finish that it is a matter of when, and now is when,” Hogan told Florida Daily.
Groups that have used the stadium like WWE, college football teams and musicians have all given feedback on how to get the stadium up to 21st century standards. If the city wants to keep the Pro Bowl from going back to Hawaii or being played at Super Bowl sites, Hogan believes Orlando has to be what it already is.
“How do we continue to innovate and use pockets of our destination to prop up those events…so they continue to grow that connectivity from the player to the youngest fan among us in the country and beyond? So I think that’s the goal right? Double down on what they’ve been doing well,” Hogan said.
The 2020 Pro Bowl will be played on January 26th at 3 pm and will be televised on ESPN and ABC.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.