Known primarily as a basketball city, Orlando has seen several franchises pass through, attempting to capture its loyal fan base’s attention. From lacrosse, to football skewed towards the "xtreme," what was it that derailed these franchises, and how has Orlando City SC avoided the same pitfalls?
Following two dismal seasons in Washington as the Federals, and a failed sale to a Miami businessman, the City Beautiful would welcome the USFL with open arms, in anticipation of high quality professional football.
Unfortunately, the Renegades of 1985 bore a striking resemblance in many ways to the Federals of 1983-84. Colorful Lee Corso was brought in as the head coach, but a much-needed complete overhaul of the roster wasn't effected, contributing to the team's 5-13 showing in its only season.
After a season drawing less than 50% capacity, the team was prepared to go forward with a second season in Orlando -- a fall season in which the Renegades, unlike the Tampa Bay Bandits, would have no direct local competition -- when the USFL v. NFL verdict was announced. Within days, the 1986 season was canceled, and the Renegades were scrapped.
With all the fanfare of the purchase of the team and a head coach loved across the state, hopes were high for the Renegades. A big issue for the 'Gades, aside from the abysmal record, was the lack of connection between the fans and the players on the team. The most dominant personality in the organization was far and away the head coach, and you won't find many people who pay money to watch him on the sidelines.
OCSC seems to grasp the concept of connecting with the audience through on-field talent. From international star Kaká to domestic talents in Brek Shea and Amobi Okugo, the Lions have been clear they will make the necessary moves to put an entertaining, competitive team on the pitch.
After three seasons as the New York Titans, Vice President of Communications Dan Pearson announced that the lacrosse team would be moving to Orlando -- keeping the Titans name -- with their home games staged at Amway Arena.
With an 11-5 record and an average attendance over 7,000 per game, the Titans seemed to be developing hearty interest in the city. Things came crashing down rather quickly, however, and after reports of missing payments to vendors and players alike, the team sent out a recorded voice message informing season ticket holders the team would not continue playing in 2011.
Shortly afterward, the website was taken down. Phone lines were disconnected. Season ticket holders have not been refunded. The National Lacrosse League itself was unaware of any timetable for return.
It's hard to find where things went wrong for the Titans. With a decent attendance figure and locally televised games, they seemed primed to stick around town. It's clear financial issues were at the heart of the problem -- they had reached out for minority investors around the time of the shutdown -- and the lack of a national television deal for the NLL certainly didn't help.
MLS announced a TV deal worth just shy of nine figures prior to the 2015 season, across national platforms ESPN, FOX, and Univision, increasing the league's television revenue by almost 300%.
The Orlando Rage were the East Coast pride and joy of the short-lived Xtreme Football League joint venture between NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment. Football fever swept over the city, as a full-field alternative to the NFL would be available in the city for the first time in over 15 years.
There were plenty of reasons to be excited about the product. Quarterback Jeff Brohm had led the team to an early 6-0 record, and would go on to be named the QB of the Year, despite a career-ending shoulder injury in the seventh week of the season. Finishing 8-2 atop the entire league, it was brutally disappointing to the fans to be upset in the first round of the playoffs by the 5-5 San Francisco Demons.
Citing abysmal television ratings as the primary cause, NBC ended the XFL experiment after just one season.
The Orlando Rage live on today, but not at all in their original form. A member of the Florida Football Alliance, home games can be seen from Raymond Skrews Stadium at West Orange High School. The Rage has won National Championships four times in the last seven years, including last season.
Soccer ratings across America have been steadily rising as the league's profile itself does. With the aforementioned $90 million deals with ESPN, FOX, and Univision, the league (and its teams) can reasonably expect the ratings to continue their steady upward trend.
Orlando City SC
While still in relative infancy, all signs are encouraging for the Lions and their longevity. With a league on the rise, television revenues increasing, broadly appealing talent on the field, and attendances for practice sessions rivaling those of other professional leagues' games, there has been no team in the past 20 years set up for success the way that City is. All that's left to do, folks, is #FillTheBowl.