Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill

No question that the Arnold Palmer Invitational taking place this week at Bay Hill will be a living tribute to the lost legend.  Mastercard, the sponsor the the annual golf tournament, released a heartfelt commercial this week,  associating acts of courage and kindness, things “Arnie Would” do.  ESPN paints a picture of his untouched office at Bay Hill.  A thirteen foot statue now stands at Bay Hill and State Road 408 has been renamed the Arnold Palmer Expressway.

The Orlando Sentinel had a piece over the weekend about Arnold Palmer’s impact on Orlando and the sense of place he had at Bay Hill.  Here’s an excerpt:

Back when Sand Lake was a two-lane road amid the Central Florida orange groves, the world’s most popular golfer stumbled upon this remote corner of Orlando.

“You almost had to get lost to find Bay Hill.” said Roy Saunders, Palmer’s son-in-law.

The 35-year-old Palmer immediately felt at home.

While visiting Bay Hill for an exhibition match during the winter of 1965, Palmer found a golf course that fit his eye, rugged natural surroundings teeming with wildlife and solitude that suited his western Pennsylvania sensibilities.

“It appealed to him because of the privacy,” longtime Palmer right-hand man Doc Giffin recalled. “He thought he had found a nice, quiet, lovely place — with a golf course.”

Tourism and 20th-century progress would reshape Palmer’s vision, but he didn’t fight it. Palmer’s business sense and ability to dream big would give him ownership of Bay Hill Club and Lodge in 1970. He soon transformed it into a high-end resort and one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour.

In the week ahead, many of the world’s top golfers and sizable crowds will descend on Palmer’s winter oasis for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Even as Disney World butted up on the Bay Hill’s southern border in the early 1970s, Universal Orlando squeezed the property from the east two decades later and hundreds of homes and condos sprouted up over the years within the community, Bay Hill remained Palmer’s sanctuary.

Many cities have sports icons, but Arnold Palmer was not just a sports icon.  He was a businessman, philanthropist and ambassador for the community.  The PGA will ascend upon Bay Hill this weekend, where Arnold Palmer’s presence and legend will remain for generations to come.


Grapefruit League Preview 2017

2017 FL Spring Training Logo

Baseball is back!  Pitchers and catchers reported to camp last week all across the Sunshine State. While many up North are freezing in their home cities, 15 MLB squads are reporting to cities across Florida and Grapefruit League exhibition play is set to begin.  Here’s a changes to take note of this Spring:

  • The Houston Astros no longer train in Kissimmee and the Washington Nationals no longer train in Viera (both a bummer for us Central Floridians).  Both teams are opening a new joint facility, Ballpark of The Palms,  in West Palm Beach.
  • Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, home of the Detroit Tigers, has undergone a $48 million renovation and the Tigers have a contract with the city of Lakeland through 2036.  The Tigers have held Spring Training in Lakeland since 1934.
  • The New York Yankees home at George M. Steinbrenner Field has undergone $40 million in renovations and the Yankees are locked in with the city of Tampa through 2046.  The Yankees have held Spring Training in Tampa since 1996.
  • The Atlanta Braves are still at Champion Stadium at Walt Disney World, but are negotiating with Sarasota for a new facility.  This may be one of the final few seasons the Braves play in Central Florida.
  • The World Baseball Classic kicks off on March will pull some of the leagues top stars away from Spring Training.  Marlins Park in Miami will host First Round games from Pool C, which includes: United States, Canada, Columbia and Dominican Republic.

If you are looking for more details on Spring Training and would like to catch your team in action, there are several great online resources available, including:  Florida Grapefruit League, Spring Training Online and Spring Training Connection.

Play ball!

Written by Brian Koss of Team Koss, Real Estate Agents at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Minor League Baseball Returns to Orlando!

The Florida Fire Frogs are the newest professional sports franchise in the Orlando area.  The Brevard County Manatees relocated to Kissimmee following the 2016 season and will play it’s first season at Osceola County Stadium this Spring. Read More

Continue reading “Minor League Baseball Returns to Orlando!”

Alabama-Clemson Have Deep Ties to Florida

In just the third season of the College Football Playoff system, Alabama and Clemson will both play in the National Championship Game for the second time.  Both schools defeated their opponents handily in the Semifinals:  Alabama beat Washington 24-7 in (Chic-a-fila) Peach Bowl and Clemson beat Ohio State 31-0 in (Playstation) Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama edged out a 45-40 victory against Clemson in last year’s game, setting up what should be an exciting rematch.  These two powerhouse programs will face off for the title on Monday, January 9 at 8:00pm (ESPN) in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium.

There are numerous players on both teams that have ties to the Sunshine State.

Two starters on Alabama’s top rated defense are Florida natives, Defensive Backs – Eddie Jackson (Lauderdale Lakes) and Ronnie Harrison (Tallahassee) as well as Wide Receiver – Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek).

Clemson’s roster is loaded with Florida natives (14 players in total), including most of their Receiving core:  Artavis Travis (Clearwater), Deon Cain (Tampa), Ray Ray McCloud (Tampa) and Tight End Jordan Leggett (Navarre).

You can also find ties to Orlando on the Clemson roster.  Deshaun Watson’s backup QB, Freshman Tucker Israel is a graduate of Lake Nona High School and Tight End Garrett Williams is a graduate of The First Academy.  The Bevelle twins (Kaleb and Kelby), both Defensive Ends,  are graduates of Apopka High School, played their first season at Southeastern University (Lakeland).

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and the Bevelle twins father, Willis Bevelle were both walk-ons at Alabama in 1989 and played on the Tide’s 1992 National Championship team.  Clemson Offensive Tackle Jake Fruhmorgan (Tampa) is also putting his father, former Alabama offensive lineman John Fruhmorgan, through the similar stress of choosing to root his son’s team (Clemson) or his alma mater (Alabama).

Many will remember Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s two year stint as Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins (2005-2006).  Saban finished 9-7 his first season, but dropped to 6-10 in 2006.  In the days following the 2006 season, Saban made the announcement he was signing on with Alabama, in what turned out to be an historic event.

While it is true that both schools maintain bitter rivalries with Florida State (Clemson) and Florida (Alabama), you will find plenty of alumni and fans of both schools when traveling throughout Central Florida.  Clemson recently defeated Virginia Tech at the ACC Championship Game in Orlando and Alabama plays Louisville in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando this September.

This will be the first College Football National Championship Game ever played in Tampa.  Perhaps given the high profile games played in Orlando in recent years, a future bid for the big game may not out of the question.

Written by Brian Koss of Team Koss, Real Estate Agents at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Bowl Season in Florida (2016-17)

Florida is the home of College Football from mid-December to the early part of January. No state in the nation will see nearly as much college football action during the annual bowl season.  Post-season has a long history in the Sunshine State.  The Orange Bowl, is the second longest standing bowl game, dating back to 1935.  The Gator Bowl / TaxSlayer Bowl (1946) and Citrus Bowl (1947) are also among the oldest annual games.

In the Bowl  Championship Series (BCS) era, four of the BCS National Championship Games games were played in Miami.  This year, the third National Championship of the College Football Playoff era will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Here’s the full list of Florida bowl games for the 2016-2017 bowl season:

December 17

Autonation Cure Bowl, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, 5:30 pm / CBSSN

Matchup:  UCF (American) vs Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

December 19

Miami Beach Bowl, Marlins Park (Miami), 2:30 pm / ESPN

Matchup:  Tulsa (American) vs Central Michigan (MAC)

December 20

Boca Raton Bowl, FAU Stadium (Boca Raton), 7 pm / ESPN

Matchup:  Western Kentucky (Conference USA) vs Memphis (American)

December 26

 St. Petersburg Bowl, Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg), 11 am / ESPN 

Matchup:  Mississippi State (SEC) vs Miami – Ohio (MAC)

December 28

Russell Athletic Bowl, Camping World Stadium (Orlando), 5:30 pm / ESPN

Matchup:  Miami (ACC) vs #16 West Virginia (Big 12)

December 30

Capital One Orange Bowl, Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens), 8pm / ESPN

Matchup:  #11 Florida State (ACC) vs #6 Michigan (Big Ten)

December 31

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, Camping World Stadium (Orlando), 11 am / ABC

Matchup:  #20 LSU (SEC) vs #13 Louisville (ACC)

Taxslayer Bowl, EverBank Field (Jacksonville), 11 am / ESPN

Matchup:  Kentucky (SEC) vs Georgia Tech (ACC)

January 2 

Outback Bowl, Raymond James Stadium (Tampa), 1 pm / ABC

Matchup:  Iowa (Big Ten) vs #17 Florida (SEC)

January 9 

College Football National Championship, Raymond James Stadium (Tampa), 8:30 pm / ESPN 

Matchup:  Winner of Chic-fil-a Peach Bowl (#1 Alabama vs #4 Washington) vs Winner of PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (#2 Clemson vs #3 Ohio State)

If you are in Orlando and looking for more details on our local games (AutoNation Cure Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl), check out Camping World Stadium and Florida Citrus Sports.


Cubs, Indians and Florida

Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven (Polk County)

The World Series starts this week and in case you haven’t heard, it will feature two teams with combined 176 years without a championship.  The Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948; the Chicago Cubs, 1908.  As baseball has been a part of the fabric of America for a century and a half, the state of Florida has played a major role in the games history.

Spring Training has been host to most MLB franchises throughout the years, but the Cubs have spent little time here.  From 1913-1916, the Cubs held their Spring Training in Tampa.  However, their Advanced A minor league franchise the Daytona Cubs, played in Daytona from 1993-2014.  The Indians spent time in Lakeland (1923-27), Fort Myers (1940-41), Clearwater (1946) and most recently Winter Haven (1993-2008).

And who can forget the heartbreak brought upon both franchises by the Florida (Miami) Marlins?  The 1997 Cleveland Indians looking to end their 49 year drought, lost to the Marlins in the bottom of the 11th in Game 7 of the World Series.  Or the 2003 Cubs, who were just 5 outs away from clinching the National League Pennant, before the famous Steve Bartman Incident.

Similarly, the home state’s of the Cubs (Illinois) and the Indians (Ohio) have contributed to the makeup of Florida’s diverse population.  A study done in 2014 reveals that 3% of Florida residents are Illinois natives and 3% of Florida residents are Ohio natives.  Only New York (8%) and Pennsylvania (4%) have higher numbers.  Throughout the state, you’ll find some famous sports icons of Chicago like Mike Ditka in Naples or Jack Nicholas (Columbus) in West Palm Beach.

You don’t have to go far to find a bumper sticker, flag or cap touting support for a Cleveland sports team (or Ohio State) or for a Chicago team, most notably the Bears or Cubs.  I bet you’ll find plenty of Cubs fans to watch the World Series with at the Orlando area’s chain of bars, the Friendly Confines.

As both teams set out to end their respective curses this week, you can bet plenty of Floridians will be tuned in to witness the history unfold.  After that, the older residents will escape the frosty cold of the Midwest and enjoy their winter homes in the Sunshine State.

Orlando, Football City

While you may have seen a lot around town about Orlando City “futbol,” quietly Orlando has become a destination for major college and pro football games.  Most recently, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced it would be hosting its conference championship game in Orlando at Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl) on December 3rd.

 Inaugural Camping World Kickoff  9/5/16                 (Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)

The ACC Championship will likely include a matchup between top rated teams playing for a spot in the College Football Playoffs.  While there’s still plenty of football to play, if the game were held today, it would feature the #3 Clemson Tigers vs the #17 Virginia Tech Hookies.   The first annual Camping World Kickoff was held on Labor Day this year, where the Florida State Seminoles staged a huge second half comeback against the Ole Miss Rebels.  Next year’s game will feature the Alabama Crimson Tide vs the Louisville Cardinals.  The 2018 game will be an inner state showdown between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes.

December is a busy month at Camping World Stadium.  After the ACC Championship game, the best high school teams in the state will gather for their respective division’s state championship games.  The Autonation Bowl on December 17, created in 2014, features a matchup between the Sun Belt Conference and American Athletic Conference, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. On December 28, the Russell Athletic Bowl will feature a big matchup between the ACC and Big 12.  Last year, Baylor defeated North Carolina and in 2014 Clemson beat Oklahoma.  The Russell Athletic Bowl has been played in Orlando since 2001.

The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl is one of the longest standing College Football Bowl games, beginning in 1947.  From 1947-1982, the game was originally known as the Tangerine Bowl.   For many years, the game has had a tie-in with ranked schools in the Big Ten and SEC.  In last year’s game, the #14 Michigan Wolverines defeated the #19 Florida Gators.  This year, for the first time in the game’s history, it will take place on New Year’s Eve (December 31), rather than New Year’s Day, due to the CFB Playoffs.

The NFL has also taken interest in Orlando.  The Miami Dolphins played a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons in August and the Pro Bowl will be played in Orlando on January 29, 2017, which will include a week of football related festivities.  This attention has sparked conversation about Orlando’s future with the NFL.  Orlando is one of the largest markets in the country without an NFL team, but it centrally located between Florida’s three NFL teams in Miami, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.  Florida Citrus Sports has been in talks with these franchises about future games.

Orlando public officials and the Florida Citrus Sports will cite the the $207 million renovation of Camping World Stadium in 2014, as to what made this all possible. The stadium holds 65,000 attendees for sporting events, includes 6,000 club seat and 33 luxury suites.  The upgrades have modernized the stadium to bring it on par with similar venues around the country.

The next several years of at-large college and NFL football could bring more attention to Orlando as a big game destination.  The UCF Knights are even in discussion with the Big 12 about potentially joining their plans for conference expansion.  What’s next?  How about an annual regular season NFL game between the Buccaneers/Dolphins, Dolphins/Jaguars or Jaguars/Buccaneers?  What about UCF rotating a home game with Florida, Florida State and Miami and playing it at Camping World Stadium?  A College Football National Championship?  A Super Bowl?  The future for football in Orlando has many possibilities.