Thursday, August 8, 2013

Philadelphia market has the specs, title history for possible spring football return

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania doesn’t have to take a back seat to any city in the United States when it comes to the goods for a potential new spring outdoor alternative professional football league team.

Not only is Philadelphia the fourth-largest television market in the United States, according to Nielsen, but it also has the venues and the spring football championship pedigree to make it a very attractive market.

The home of the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles and college football’s Temple Owls is Lincoln Financial Field, open since 2003. The 67,594-seat venue features a combo grass-artificial fiber surface.

Venerable Franklin Field is the University of Pennsylvania’s home for various sports, including, of course, football, and is the home of the famous Penn Relays track meet. Franklin Field can seat nearly 53,000 spectators, has a turf surface and has been the site for many football games over the years, including a 1984 playoff game for the United States Football League’s Philadelphia Stars.

PPL Park, the home for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, is the Philadelphia market’s latest outdoor sports gem. PPL Park has a grass surface and seats 18,500 for soccer, meaning it might be too small for a new spring outdoor alternative pro football team.

The same can be said for Villanova Stadium, home of the football Wildcats. It holds just 12,500 fans at its Astro Play-surface facility.

The Philadelphia Phillies’ home park, Citizens Bank Park, has been open since 2004 – and has been a baseball-only venue in that time, save for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic in 2012. It has a grass surface, and a capacity of more than 43,000, but with the Phillies as owner, their appetite for a football team’s home games at the beginning of their season can’t be very big.

Philadelphia’s outdoor spring pro football history `is limited to the Stars, but what a history that is. The Stars lost in the USFL’s first championship game in 1983, then won the league’s second title in 1984. They widely are considered the USFL’s top franchise – as well as the top franchise in the history of spring outdoor alternative pro football.

BOTTOM LINE – While Philadelphia does have the Phillies, the National Basketball Association’s 76ers, the National Hockey League’s Flyers and the Union all competing for springtime sports dollars, a new pro football team would have a legitimate chance of success.

That’s because the Eagles have drawn more than 100 percent of capacity for their home games every season since at least 2006 – meaning there is an insatiable appetite for high-quality pro football in Philadelphia that easily can extend into the spring months.

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