The Miami Beach Bowl will not be returning to Marlins Park this year, or anywhere else in Florida.
ESPN reported that the game will move to Frisco, Texas, where it will be played at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat facility outside of Dallas that is home to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.
“We are proud of the postseason opportunities that we have been able to provide to student-athletes through our founding of the Miami Beach Bowl, and we appreciate the relationships that we have built with the Miami Marlins, Marlins Park and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a release. “This transfer makes sense on many levels. We are excited to enhance our overall relationship with ESPN and to continue our affiliation with the bowl.”
The AAC did not confirm the new location but will continue to participate in the bowl game. An AAC team will face a Sun Belt opponent in 2017 and 2019, and one from the Mid-American Conference in 2018, ESPN reported.
The brief run of the Miami Beach Bowl will be best remembered for the on-field brawl at the conclusion of the inaugural game, which Memphis won 55-48 over BYU in double-overtime.
All three of the games were high-scoring affairs, but attendance was disappointing. The final game, on Dec. 19, drew only 15,262 for Tulsa’s 55-10 rout of Central Michigan. That ranked second-to-last in bowl attendance, outdrawing only the Bahamas Bowl (13,422).
The Miami Beach Bowl was one of three bowl games in South Florida, also competing with the Orange Bowl and the Boca Raton Bowl.
The high-water mark for the game at Marlins Park was in 2015 when 21,712 witnessed an entertaining 45-35 victory by Western Kentucky over South Florida. In addition to the presence of an in-state team, Western Kentucky was led by quarterback Brandon Doughty, a Broward County native (North Broward Prep) later drafted the Dolphins.
But considering the capacity is 34,000 in the football configuration, the crowds fell well short of success.
“You never like to lose events, but on the other side we understand the reason behind it,” said Claude Delorme, executive vice president of operations and events at Marlins Park.
“The biggest struggle we had was it was an afternoon game on a Monday the week prior to Christmas. Unless you get teams that travel well it’s difficult to get a crowd that you need to make the bowl successful.”
The Miami Beach Bowl had a six-year contract, but the AAC and the Marlins both had the option of opting out each year, Delorme said.
“We really liked having the event,” he said. “When we built this facility we wanted to be in position to host soccer and even football. … We like to show that the stadium can be used for a lot more than baseball.”
Marlins Park will be the site of this year’s MLB All-Star Game (July 11) and Home Run Derby (July 10). It recently draw two sellout crowds while hosting four teams in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Still to be determined is whether the Race of Champions will return to Marlins Park next year. The most unusual event yet staged at the ballpark involved an international field of top drivers from various auto racing circuits competing on a figure-eight track constructed on the baseball field during January.
The event drew raves from the drivers and was well received by fans that turned out, but the attendance of 28,618 for the two days of competition also fell short of organizers’ hopes.
“You don’t expect to see that in a baseball facility, and I think the fans that came out truly enjoyed themselves,” Delorme said. “We’re definitely interested in doing it again.”
One consideration for continuing the ROC will be compensation for having to replace all of the sod on the baseball field after the track is removed.
“I gave them parameters of what it would take to be able to do it again. I think they are pretty favorable terms. They would pay for a portion of it and we would take some of the risk by making sure we can host other events during the November through the end of February window,” Delorme said. “Now the ball is in their court. I know they wanted to consider a few options.”