The Alliance of American Football will debut as an eight-team professional league on Feb. 9, a week after the Super Bowl. The eight franchises will include the Orlando Apollos, and they will play in Spectrum Stadium on the University of Central Florida campus.
In Orlando, I became familiar with the Tangerine Bowl in the 1970s, when covering the Twins in spring training. It was a cheap erector set of a stadium that almost bumped up to the right field fence at Tinker Field.
Now called Camping World Stadium, which will be host to three postseason bowl games, it underwent a $200 million renovation completed in 2014, with another $60 million renovation also approved this year.
There have been persistent attempts to make goes of it with other pro leagues in Orlando. My preliminary search indicated the Apollos will be the fifth pro football team to try to attract crowds to that now-remodeled stadium.
“Only the fifth?’’ Brian Schmitz said. “It seems like more.’’
Schmitz is a friend from the Twins’ years at Tinker and has been retired since 2017 as a sports columnist and reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. He was right:
The Apollos will be Orlando’s sixth pro football team, and that excludes the Predators, a team that played for 25 seasons in the Arena Football League before folding after 2016.
The Orlando Panthers played in the Continental Football League (a league with semi-pro salaries) from 1965 to 1969. They won titles in 1967-68 with Don Jonas at quarterback.
The Florida Blazers played one season in the World Football League in 1974, went 14-6 with Jack Pardee as coach, and lost 22-21 to Birmingham in the World Bowl.
The Orlando Predators played one season in the USFL in 1985 and went 5-13 with Lee Corso as the coach. The Orlando Thunder played two seasons (1991-92) in the World League of American Football and lost in a different World Bowl to Sacramento in 1992.
The Orlando Rage played the one season (2001) of the XFL, won the East with an 8-2 record and was upset by Sacramento in the playoffs. Vince McMahon is promising an XFL return in 2020 and it would be true Orlando if the city also has a team in that league.
Why not? The reinforced erector set is already scheduled to host three games in this bowl season: Cure Bowl, Dec. 15; Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28; Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
Other Orlando football notes:
• The Apollos will be coached by Steve Spurrier. They open at home on Feb. 9 vs. the Brad Childress-coached Atlanta Legends. Be there or be square.
• The indoor Predators won two Arena titles — in 1998 and 2000, with Jay Gruden as the coach.
• Recent powerhouse Central Florida plays on campus in Spectrum Stadium, with a capacity of 40,000 — and it’s such an erector set it’s called the “Bounce House.’’