As South Florida and the Orange Bowl Committee prepare to host one of the most anticipated national championship games in history as well as celebrate our longstanding annual holiday tradition — the 79th Discover Orange Bowl — it is a good time to reflect on what the Orange Bowl really means to our community and local economy.
The opportunity to welcome ACC Champion Florida State and MAC Champion Northern Illinois in our traditional football classic, and the added privilege of hosting No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game, puts South Florida in the center of the sports world yet again, showcasing all that our wonderful region has to offer. For nearly 80 years, the Orange Bowl has remained true to its mission to promote and serve South Florida through championship sporting events, related premier entertainment, and other year-round activities to inspire youth, engage our community, and bolster the South Florida economy.
With two BCS bowl games, we are able to support other key events as well as invest in our community. Annually, the Orange Bowl organizes and supports numerous other sporting events including the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, the Orange Bowl Swim Classic and many others. The annual investment of almost $1 million to support youth sports programs, grants and scholarships greatly benefits more than 16,000 youth. Additionally, the Orange Bowl has spearheaded legacy gift projects to revitalize neighborhood parks through partnerships with the City of Miami at Orange Bowl Field at Moore Park, the City of Fort Lauderdale at Orange Bowl Field at Carter Park, and a soon to be announced project in Miami-Dade County.
These facilities substantially improve the surrounding communities, and provide a safe haven and state-of-the-art facility for children, all while serving to inspire and support our most important asset —our youth!
Orange Bowl truly belongs to all of South Florida. While the non-profit cmmittee serves in a stewardship role, our ultimate success relies on the support of individual South Floridians, and local businesses and organizations. Now, with changes on the horizon for postseason college football from 2014-15 through 2025-26, this incredible dynamic of mutual support and achievement will become even more important. In the new structure featuring a four-team playoff, Orange Bowl will host eight traditional bowl games as well as four national semifinal matchups. At the same time, Orange Bowl will no longer have a guaranteed rotation — currently once every four years — in hosting the National Championship Game. The site of the championship game will now be open to bid in an increasingly competitive environment similar to the host venue selection process for Super Bowls and Final Fours.
Given the value that BCS bowl games bring to South Florida, this year represents a critical opportunity for us all to demonstrate a shared resolve to be at the top of our game. By generating local enthusiasm and highlighting the incredible spirit of our region, we can ensure that our positioning in the future bid process is second to none. In other words, it is time for South Florida to put our best foot forward and show everyone why the BCS National Championship Game belongs in our corner of the world.
Laying the groundwork for hosting future national championship games simply makes sense. After all, this year the Orange Bowl and Championship games are projected to generate an economic impact of more than $200 million. That means more booked hotel rooms, more sales at local stores, and more meals at area restaurants, which results in more money in the pockets of bellhops, valets, wait staffs and many others. It means more dollars flowing into our community, greater confidence in our economy, increased investments in our neighborhoods, and a brighter overall outlook on jobs and on revenue for cities and counties. And so, as we all get ready for kickoff time, let’s show the nation and the world why no one does it better than South Florida!
O. Ford Gibson is president and chair of the Orange Bowl Committee.