Championships will remain in Central Florida, though bidding venues offer different upsides.
We don’t know the specific venue yet, but we do know that the high-school football state championships are coming back to Central Florida this fall — and that’s a win.
According to reports, Orlando and Daytona Beach each bid before the March 11 deadline, which will take place on the first two weekends of December. Orlando bid to have the championships at the Citrus Bowl, where it has been in recent years, and Daytona Beach offered its Municipal Stadium — a venue that had hosted the event in the mid-1990s.
A decision on where the finals for 2016, 2017 and 2018 will be played is to be made on or before May 6.
For starters, I’m just glad that — at the most — the high-school football state championships are within a one-and-one-half-hour drive. Fingers crossed, I’ll be there on assignment in early December.
On Twitter, there has been some talk about which venue better suits the event. The debate seems to come down to this: The Citrus Bowl is the newer, better, more centrally located venue with the first class amenities, while Municipal Stadium could be the right way to go in terms of creating the best possible atmosphere for a state-title game.
Regarding the Citrus Bowl, it is surely a thrill for high-school kids to say they are taking the field at a venue where major college bowl games and international soccer games have taken place. Since its renovation was completed — and renovation is another way of saying most of the stadium was rebuilt from scratch — the Citrus Bowl has drawn rave reviews, and Florida certainly could do a lot worse.
The downside, though, is obvious: The Citrus Bowl seats about 60,000 spectators, and a well-attended state title game isn’t going to draw close to half of that. Only in rare cases — with a local program involved — has a game held at the Citrus Bowl topped 10,000 in paid attendance.
The optics on television aren’t great with lots of empty seats, and it’s not much better in person. The games still can be exciting, obviously, and a raucous fan base can make the atmosphere enjoyable, but they’re almost working against the large venue.
Now, I have not been to Municipal Stadium, where Bethune-Cookman University plays its home games, so I do not know about traffic or other issues with the venue. Here’s what I do know: It seats about 10,000 with the ability to add temporary seating for special occasions.
The argument for a smaller venue is simple — atmosphere. Where 7,000 fans could seem like a disappointing turnout in the Citrus Bowl, that same crowd would nearly fill the facility in Daytona Beach. The idea is that the atmosphere at a packed, smaller venue would more closely mirror what we all think of when we think of high-school football under the lights on a Friday night.
Which, of course, is not to say that some players, coaches and fans don’t prefer the added treat of playing in a venue such as the Citrus Bowl. Residents of West and Southwest Orange County also can’t complain about a state-title game being played at a driving distance no longer than our daily commute.
I’m an atmosphere guy. That’s why I’d rather see a baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago than a football game in a glitzy NFL stadium such as “Jerry’s World” (AT&T Stadium) in Arlington, Texas. So, although I’m not flat-out advocating for Municipal Stadium, it certainly is intriguing.
Either way, this reporter isn’t complaining.