Is UFC 129 the First of the Big Stadium Shows in the UFC's Future?
This Saturday, the UFC will not only enter Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the first time, they will also host an event in a large scale stadium that has a capacity of 55,000-plus fans.
The Rogers Centre, formerly known as The Skydome, is used primarily for the Toronto Blue Jays and has a retractable roof that can be closed within an hour.
How the UFC sets the seating up remains to be seen, but you can bet there will be plenty of large screen high definition monitors to add to the fans' overall experience. UFC President Dana White has always been concerned that these type of facilities will take away from the fights themselves and make it difficult on the fans to catch all the action.
With today's technology and the ability to arrange the seating in a way where there are no bad seats, UFC 129 will serve as a litmus test for future large scale arena shows. Should this event prove to be successful, and so far with a gate of $11 million it has, where will the UFC go next when it comes to these types of stadiums?
For the time being, I have decided to keep this dedicated to the stadiums in North America; we can always go back and do another story detailing arenas all around the world.
Cowboys Stadium- Arlington, Texas
Cowboys Stadium is truly a work of art, and in the short time it has been around, it has already played host to Super Bowl XLV and the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey boxing bout back in March of 2010. Over 50,000 fans were in attendance for that fight. Pacquiao returned just eight months later and defeated Antonio Margarito.
The stadium has a giant screen that hangs over the field and measures out at 152' X 72' and covers over 11,500 square feet. The stadium has a capacity of over 80,000, and that can be increased to 111,00 with standing room. This stadium would make for a terrific host to any UFC event and would do just as well, if not better than UFC 129, as far as ticket sales are concerned.
Yankee Stadium- Bronx, NY
The House that George Built opened for business in 2009. If you are a baseball fan, this is one stadium you must visit at all costs. The Yankees have combined their rich history with all the nuances of today's technology to construct a beautiful place to watch a ballgame.
The total attendance for a baseball game is a shade over 50,000, but that increases to 52,325 with standing room only tickets. The centerfield scoreboard is 59' x 100' and utilizes an LED screen. The seats are actually wider than many of the major stadiums, as they measure 19-24 wide and there is 33-39 inches of leg room.
Any UFC event that would take place here would be contingent on the state of NY finally getting their act together and legalizing the sport, something that still baffles me to this day. Not only would the event be well received, fans would have an opportunity to spend time in the greatest city in the world.
University of Phoenix Stadium- Phoenix, AZ
The University of Phoenix Stadium plays host to the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals and has hosted Super Bowl XLII, Wrestlemania XXVI and was home to the BCS National Championship Game in 2007 and 2011. This past year's national championship game between Auburn and Oregon set the stadium attendance record with an amazing 78,603 fans.
The University of Phoenix is actually the corporate sponsor and they pay a pretty penny to have their name attached to the facility. It cost the online college $154.5 million over the course of 20 years. There are 63,400 permanent seats, but there is room for additional seats that brings the total to at least 78,600.
Arizona is a hotbed for mixed martial arts and is very close to the UFC's home in Las Vegas. The WEC held its last event there in December, and fans did not go home disappointed. The attendance at the Jobing.com Arena, which is in the same complex as the football stadium, was 6,348. That was the seventh highest attendance mark for a WEC event.
With a retractable roof, beautiful weather and plethora of MMA fans, this stadium is a no-brainer should the UFC decide to begin utilizing these bigger stadiums.
Giants Stadium- East Rutherford, NJ
The new Meadowlands plays home to both the NY Giants and NY Jets and will become the first cold weather city to host a Super Bowl in 2014. The UFC has had a lot of success in New Jersey in recent years with UFC 111 and UFC 128. There is no reason to believe that they couldn't do better if they had a facility with a larger seating capacity.
Total capacity is just over 82,500. If fans don't like driving to the stadium, there are a ton of mass transit options, especially if you are coming from NY City. You get all the pomp and circumstance of being in New York without having to be concerned whether or not NY state is going to legalize mixed martial arts.
The UFC has done a great job of promoting their NJ events in NY City. They could still host the pre-fight press conferences at Radio City Music Hall and plaster Times Square with all the billboards they like. Fans from far and wide would make the trip to New Jersey if the UFC decided to host a mega event at the Meadowlands.
FedEx Field, Landover, MD
The home of the NFL's Washington Redskins is placed in-between many of the Northeast's key markets. It is within driving distance of NY, NJ, VA, CT, PA and even some of the southern states like NC, SC and Georgia. FedEx Field can hold over 91,000 fans, the highest capacity of any NFL stadium.
All of the states I mentioned are big time MMA states, and it wouldn't be hard to draw people from these areas. Although this stadium was designed primarily for the Redskins, there have been numerous concerts which have been considered a resounding success.
It is so well located that it would almost be a crime not to bring the UFC there. This is one stadium that can not be overlooked.
Invesco Field- Denver, CO
I included Invesco Stadium because of the success the UFC has had in the Denver area. Of course, we all know that the first ever UFC event was held at the McNichols Arena, and ever since then, Denver has long been known as a great place for mixed martial arts.
It has a capacity of 76,125 for football games and up to 50,000 for concerts. With The Grudge Training facility in Wheat Ridge, Co, fans would flock to see stars such as Shane Carwin, Donald Cerrone, Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt and Brendan Schaub compete live. Denver has always been a great city for sports. Whether it's the Broncos, Rockies or the Avalanche, they know how to show their support.
Some might be wary of hosting an event in the "Mile High" city, but these guys are some of the best athletes in the world and could prepare themselves for a date in Denver.
Sun Life Stadium- Miami, Fl
Home to the Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, Miami Hurricanes and the Orange Bowl, this stadium has hosted five Super Bowls and three BCS Title Games in the 25 years it has been around. It was originally names Joe Robbie Stadium after the former Dolphins owner, then went by Pro Player Park/Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and now goes by the name of the insurance company that owns the rights until 2015.
I figured we had to include one stadium in the south, and why not choose Miami, Fl? There are a lot of mixed martial artists from the south, and many of them train at American Top Team in Coconut Creek. The capacity differs greatly dependent on who the tenant is. If the Dolphins are playing, they can fit 75,000 fans into the stadium, but if it is being used by the Marlins, that number dwindles down to about 36,000.
What would be better than watching the UFC and all of their fine fighters compete in a luxurious stadium on a beautiful Miami Saturday night? Add to all this the nightlife that South Beach offers, and it could be an ultimate fan experience.