On Wednesday, the Cure Bowl announced it would move from the cavernous Cure Bowl to Orlando City Stadium, home of the city’s MLS team.
The news received a mostly positive reaction, and for good reason. The move will benefit the Cure Bowl going forward and could possibly start a domino effect for other bowls.
A Better Atmosphere
The main reason why the bowl’s move will benefit them in the long-run is in the way it will improve the game’s atmosphere. Lately, poor attendance has haunted many bowls across the country.
Just look at this crowd shot of the 2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl:
The Cure Bowl’s problem was almost identical to that of the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Both bowls resided in historic venues, Camping World Stadium (or the Orlando Citrus Bowl as purists like me still call it) and the Cotton Bowl.
Both struggled to fill their venues for the past few years. In particular, the highest attendance the Cure Bowl could draw in the 65,000 seat stadium was 27,213 in 2016, and that was with UCF playing in a de facto home game.
While tradition is nice in a bowl venue, it benefits the bowl little if that tradition fails to draw fans. The atmosphere is less enjoyable for fans and it does not look good for TV viewers.
This move will greatly improve the experience for attending fans, particularly before the game. The more condensed feel will increase the big game atmosphere and newer amenities will aid the pregame experience further.
For fans at home, the smaller venue will avoid the negative perception of the bowl being a “meaningless game” that near-empty bowl crowds always seem to provoke.
Is this a trend?
While the Cure Bowl joins the Frisco Bowl as only the second bowl to make its home in a smaller soccer stadium, the move toward smaller stadiums in general has become a growing trend.
In 2014, the Boca Raton and Camellia Bowls sprang up at FAU Stadium which seats 30,000,and the historic Cramton Bowl which seats 25,000 after extensive renovations in 2011. These bowls almost always fill seats, which has significantly helped the fan atmosphere. Additionally, the Military Bowl took a similar route when moving from the huge, but aging RFK Stadium to the friendly confines of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Cure Bowl may not be the last bowl to move to a smaller venue to improve the atmosphere. With the construction of new stadiums at UAB and South Alabama, we could see the Birmingham Bowl and Dollar General Bowls make similar moves to the Cure Bowl.
The attendance of these stadiums pales in comparison to their much older predecessors, with UAB’s new stadium seating 55,000 compared to Legion Field’s 71,594 and South Alabama’s seating 25,000 to Ladd-Peebles’ 33,471. Moving these bowls would only benefit them both as both will likely continue to fall well short of sellouts in the near future.
Another bowl that comes to mind is the New Orleans Bowl.
Even at the peak of Louisiana-Lafayette’s four-year NOLA Bowl dynasty, the bowl’s attendance only peaked at 54,728 of the 73,000 plus seats with the in-state showdown of Tulane vs the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2013.
A move to Tulane’s Yulman Stadium could have more benefits than staying in the Superdome.
The main drawback for moves like the Cure Bowl’s is further diminishing their reputation as lower-tier bowls.
A move to a smaller venue could signify a bowl accepting their low status and almost surrendering to their more prestigious counterparts.
However, as mentioned earlier with the Heart of Dallas Bowl, large venues mean nothing for prestige if the fans are not there. Empty seats in a large venue hurt bowls more than them using a small venue.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Cure Bowl’s move will pay dividends, but all signs point to a positive change. If this change helps the bowl in the long run, do not be surprised if others follow suit.