Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Miami has market size, stadiums, but no spring football history to lean on


The market of Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is very interesting where a possible spring outdoor alternative professional football league franchise is concerned.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale is the 16th-ranked television market in the United States, according to Nielsen. And it has plenty of quality options for where a possible team could play.

The obvious choice, of course, would be Sun Life Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes. Ready for use beginning in 1987, the stadium originally was called Joe Robbie Stadium and has had several other names in the past 26 years. Its capacity can go up to 75,000 seats.

Another football stadium in Miami is the home field of Florida International’s football team – Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium. It has FieldTurf, and it has been expanded to 20,000 seats, but as is the case with many college stadiums, alcohol availability would be a question mark.

An outside-the-box choice would be Marlins Park, the brand-new home of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins (nee Florida Marlins). When trying to use a baseball stadium for football, the sticking point always is how the playing surface will be configured. If it were to work, having 37,000 seats and a retractable roof both are attractive points.

Start-up football leagues seem to like to go into “untapped markets.” And where Miami is concerned, it is a spring outdoor alternative pro football league untapped market. The city never had a team in the United States Football League, the World League of American Football or the XFL. There would have been a USFL team at the old Orange Bowl, but the plans to move the Washington Federals there were sunk when the league made its ill-fated choice to move to the fall of 1986.

BOTTOM LINE – There is no way of gauging whether Miami would support a spring outdoor alternative pro football league team, since it’s never had one. In 2012, the Dolphins had the lowest average attendance by percentage of capacity (76.3) in the NFL – and that was in the fall. In 2011, the ’Phins’ attendance percentage of 81.0 was second-worst in the NFL.

And, with the National Basketball League’s Miami Heat doing as well as it has in recent years, the competition for leisure dollars in the city in the spring could be too much to overcome.

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