The Tuskers (1-2) lost on a last second field goal to the visiting Las Vegas Locomotives (1-1) 20-17, losing only their second regular season game in franchise history. Not that many people got to see it. The story of the night was not the game, but the attendance numbers.
The announced attendance was 9,050 (give or take a few hundred). The average attendance at the Citrus Bowl last year for Tuskers games was 11,586, including a game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. After all the hype of a bigger, better, and more experienced version of the UFL in Orlando, it seemed to fall a little flat. There was just something missing, something that could have easily been made up if there were more fans in the seats.
It’s not like fans have anything to complain about. On the field, the Tuskers have arguably the best run football operations in the league. With the highest rated quarterback in the UFL, an inventive head coach, a solid defense, and championship aspirations, on-field performance is not a problem for Florida. It seems the team is suffering from a sophomore slump in terms of getting new fans to the stadium. I went around the stadium to find out different people’s opinions about the Tuskers and their experience at the game. Here are the opinions I found:
Greg Reid, Fan, on the atmosphere of Tusker football: “I Love the atmosphere here, it’s certainly nice to get my family out to a professional- style game in Orlando. I’m trying to take advantage of having a UFL team here, it’s a nice price point and it’s something I can bring my kids to.”
In terms of enjoyment and success of the organization based on the in-game opinions and operations, it was a success. They have brought a team and a game to Orlando that has a family-friendly feel to it to which people have reacted positively to. Going through the stands you saw a diverse crown, from dads bringing their sons to enjoy NFL-style football to the loud college students to couples on a date. Now it’s just getting more people in the stands.
Tusker salesman, on the sales of merchandise:”We feel like we did well on our first day, obviously it’s the first game so there we be a bump, but we still have a lot of product to move.”
The big question is, can a market like Orlando sustain a UFL team? It’s hard to base off of three home game played at the Citrus Bowl , but other teams in the league like Omaha and Sacramento got 20,000 fans at each of their first home games. Averaging around 10,000 a game won’t cut it. 20,000 fans is something the Tuskers should aim for, and try to accomplish soon. The organization has a long way to go if it hopes to create a niche in Orlando, but it has a good start.