We all know that Orlando City had the second-best attendance in the MLS this past season. We also know that the MLS set a new attendance record in 2015. We're all very proud of that, but how did Orlando City stack up against the other professional sports in the state of Florida? Let's start with a look at Orlando City's attendance numbers:
Average Attendance - 32,847
Largest Attendance - 62,510 (Fill the Bowl)
Citrus Bowl Total Capacity - 62,510
Citrus Bowl Lower Level Capacity (typical for OCSC games) - 41,000
Average percentage attendance for typical capacity - 80%
National Football League
Let's get this one out of the way. No, the Orlando City Soccer Club did not top any of the professional football teams in Florida. As cool as that would be, I certainly didn't expect that to happen. However, we're not nearly so far behind as one might think. Additionally, when we do this again next year with the new stadium's 28,000-seat capacity, it may be a different story.
So, how did Florida's three NFL squads finish in 2014?
Average Attendance - 64,283
Everbank Stadium - 67,164
Percentage - 96%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Average Attendance - 61,249
Raymond James Stadium - 65,890
Percentage - 93%
Average Attendance - 68,191
Sun Life Stadium - 76,100
Percentage - 90%
Not too bad in comparison, especially considering that American football is the undisputed king of sports in the United States.
National Basketball Association
Orlando City Soccer Club has been in existence since 2010, first in the USL and finally in the MLS this past season. Five whole years. The Orlando Magic have been around since 1989. That's 26 years. That's older than some of our contributors! At 80%, Orlando City Soccer is doing great in attendance, but how did they do against the only other truly top level, major league team within the city limits?
Average Attendance - 17,196
Amway Center - 20,000
Percentage - 86%
Average Attendance - 19,600
American Airlines Arena - 19,600
Percentage - 100%
It's only fair to compare using percentages due to differences in the sizes of venues. Given that, the NBA tops Orlando City, but it does fall short on pure number of butts in seats.
Major League Baseball
America's pastime. There was a point at which baseball ruled supreme. That day has passed, though it is still a great game. Let's look at how Florida's two MLB teams fared in 2014.
Average Attendance - 21,632
Marlins Park - 36,742
Percentage - 59%
Tampa Bay Rays
Average Attendance - 15,403
Tropicana Field - 40,473
Percentage - 38%
It seems that soccer is not behind baseball in regards to the "Big Four" sports in Florida. Overall attendance as well as percentage is definitely on Orlando City's side on this one.
Hockey (NHL and ECHL)
Hockey is similar to soccer in many ways. It is a free flowing game, full of passing and limited scoring. Of course there's the difference of ice and sticks, but why be picky? Orlando has an ECHL team, the Solar Bears, but I didn't want to leave out the NHL from the analysis either. How did the guys on skates compare? Let's just say that playing for Lord Stanley's Cup may have had something to do with some of these numbers.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Average Attendance - 19,092
Amalie Arena - 20,500
Percentage - 93%
Average Attendance - 13,074
BB&T Center Center - 20,737
Percentage - 63%
Orlando Solar Bears
Average Attendance - 6,668
Amway Center (for hockey) - 17,353
Percentage - 38%
Let's be fair to our Solar Bears, they are a minor league team, and we want to support them as well. And as I said, playing for the Stanley Cup helps the Lightning, however the Panthers were not involved in any such discussion and it shows. I think that these numbers show that soccer in Orlando is more popular than hockey (unless one is having a potential championship season).
At the end of all of this, my takeaway is that Orlando City's popularity is evident in the number of fans that showed up for the matches. Our attendance numbers will be lower next year in the new stadium, but I believe we may be looking at NFL-level percentages for those matches. That's something to look forward to next season.