ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA More than 60,000 fans packed Camping World Stadium on Sunday for the N.F.L. Pro Bowl. The league chose Orlando to host the game this year and in 2018, moving it from Honolulu, where it has taken place all but twice since 1979. The move was part of the league’s strategy to redesign the event, which includes multiple activities for players and fans in the days leading up to the Pro Bowl game.
“We are excited to reimagine the Pro Bowl experience for both fans and players, and to celebrate the game of football at all levels,” said N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell. “Collaborating with Disney and ESPN brings us closer to the best in youth and family-focused entertainment.”
Pro Bowl Week began January 24 at Lorna Doone Park, where the N.F.L. in partnership with community leaders and local high school football teams planted trees to beautify the space. The main event for fans was the free N.F.L. Pro Bowl Experience Wednesday through Saturday at ESPN Wide World of Sports, with Disney food trucks, photo opportunities, skills challenges, and more. Additional events included the U.S.A. Football National Conference at the Orange County Convention Center; the U.S.A. Football Women’s World Football Games; the Special Olympics Flag Football Game; the Punt, Pass, and Kick National Championship; and the N.F.L. Flag Championship, a youth event that in the past has been held at the Super Bowl.
“Pro Bowl was a big win for the destination, and one of many high-profile sporting events Orlando will host in 2017,” said George Aguel, president and C.E.O. of Visit Orlando. “In addition to a sold-out game at Camping World Stadium, the event also brought us a weeklong itinerary of events—previously held across the nation and now combined in a single city—all of which made for an extremely exciting Pro Bowl Week.”
Orlando will also host the opening rounds of the N.C.A.A. Division I Men's Basketball Championship in March, followed by Wrestlemania in April. In addition, the 100-court U.S.T.A. National Campus recently opened, and the new 25,000-seat Orlando City Soccer Stadium opens in early March.
Steve Hogan, C.E.O. of Florida Citrus Sports, said the fan response and successful operation of the Pro Bowl events is particularly noteworthy since the city does not have an N.F.L. franchise.
“I think it’s been an important week just from the standpoint of what it has meant brand-wise to our community to host really one of the pinnacle events that the N.F.L. hosts every year,” Hogan said. “In an N.F.L. city you’d expect you can sell out a stadium, and we’re selling out a stadium for an all-star game. People showed up and they’re excited. They’re loud. Everybody’s wearing their jerseys. They’ve picked sides. So I think in every respect, we’ve shown up as a city this week as an N.F.L. city.”