With the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl coming to Camping World Stadium, Florida Citrus Sports Board President Andy Odenbach confidently explains, it’s just the beginning.
In the past two years, Florida Citrus Sports (“FCS”) has been busy. Attracting several prominent sporting events and big names to Orlando — from the the Copa America Centaria soccer tournament to the kickoff series featuring Florida State vs. Ole Miss, Alabama vs. Louisville, and Miami vs. Florida – and luring one of the largest lifestyle sporting brands to place its name on the newly renovated stadium, FCS has consistently fulfilled its mission of driving regional economic development, tourism and community engagement.
Most recently, the not-for-profit organization, which boasts more than 1,000 members, joined the NFL and community leaders in announcing that Orlando will serve as the home of the Pro Bowl, relocating the National Football League’s annual event from Hawaii, where it has been held all but two years since 1979.
None of these exciting developments would have happened, Odenbach said, had an important $200 million investment into renovating the former Citrus Bowl not been agreed to.
“We are now the beneficiary of a number of major events, some which are global broadcast events and some which move the needle here locally,” Odenbach said. “But here’s the reality. If we did not make the investment, if we just said, we’re just going to stick with what we’ve got, we would have lost everything we now have.”
“Without those upgrades, which included new suites, club spaces, locker rooms, restrooms, concession areas and proper seats in the lower bowl, conferences would have left,” Odenbach says. “College football would have left, and even more events would have pulled away from designating Orlando as a place for business.”
Odenbach, who is the Vice President of Sports Ventures at Tavistock Group and previously served as Ryder Cup Tournament Director, says Florida Citrus Sports hit pay dirt with the re-naming of the facility to Camping World Stadium.
“Camping World was a tremendous opportunity for the stadium, and for Florida Citrus Sports,” he said. “When you look deeper at their business, what they do within the communities they are in; the way in which they go about giving back, their customer base, their supplier base, and all the things that relate to sporting events, concerts, and tailgating, you couldn’t have asked for a better match.”
But it’s not just about bringing in money and camaraderie to the area. It’s that these events help launch a positive change for growth and development, as well. To Odenbach, it’s also providing an opportunity to help those who live around Camping World Stadium.
“The stadium was simply setting the stage for what was to come next,” Odenbach said.
The one big thing he wants to influence as a leader in Florida Citrus Sports is the revitalization of the local neighborhood.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to change other people’s economic fortunes and futures because of what we’ve done with the stadium,” Odenbach said.
Odenbach, who has been a part of Florida Citrus Sports for five years, credits a talented group of individuals who roll up their sleeves daily for the greater good. He praises Florida Citrus Sports Chief Executive Officer Steve Hogan as the driving force.
“Steve has been a tremendous leader for Florida Citrus Sports, and will continue to serve the organization well,” Odenbach said. “He has the never-ending task of balancing so many fronts for the organization. He is not only an exceptional community leader, but a community doer.”
As for what’s to come, Odenbach assures that whatever it is, it’ll be great so long as the organization, its members and the community continue working together for a common cause.
“I think we’re just getting started,” he said. “We’re barely two years into a new facility, barely two years into seeing what opportunities exist. We’ve done a great job of educating everyone on the improvements that have been made, and the future improvements that are going to be made. And then, when you stack in on top of that synergistic neighbors like Orlando City, Orlando Magic and the I-4 Ultimate Project, it’s all the making of much more come.”