Football is a big, billion-dollar business, and the Bahamas is now getting a piece of the pie.
Just the day before Christmas, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl was able to show the world why Bowl games are ‘better in The Bahamas.’
In October 2013, the Bahamas’ minister of tourism announced the historic game, along with reps from Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt, and the American Athletic Conference. It’s a game created with a FUBU mentality — ‘by mid-majors, for mid-majors.’ A first in its kind, Bahamas has never had a game like this grace its islands.
Though Popeyes signed on as the inaugural sponsor, the Bahamas did not even have a location in the Bahamas at the time. And just in time for the players to hit the field, the stadium was finished in 2012 and holds 15,000 people.
The original Thomas Robinson Stadium, which stood next to the new facility, was built in 1981. Work on the new stadium began in 2009 and cost $30 million. The new stadium came with a major upgrade and features a natural grass field for American football and soccer, as well as a track surface.
“People see the Bahamas as sun, sand, and sea. But there’s much more to the Bahamas than just sun, sand, and sea. This event shows what people from the Bahamas can do when we put our minds to it,” said Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu.
Fan attraction is continuing to increase year over year. Last year, the game brought out over 3,000 spectators (an increase from the inaugural year in 2014), which increased attention to the destination, therefore turning out even more attendees for the most recent game in December of 2016.
“The bowl has been great for the islands of The Bahamas as a vacation destination, the wide coverage of the games on ESPN and the innovative advertising of the games,” Jibrilu said.
Even the players were excited about the opportunity of playing in the Bahamas leading up to the game when they touched down in Nassau. “(The stadium) was awesome,” Old Dominion offensive coordinator Brian Scott said. “What a set-up. They just put in brand new Bermuda grass field that is unbelievable. Probably as good of a grass field I’ve ever played on. It was like playing on a real nice golf course, playing on the fairway, it’s that nice. The stadium is a really good set-up.”
An escape from many of the brutal temperatures that players are plagued with over the winter months, the beautiful weather in Nassau is great for outdoor activities, though it was an adjustment for the players coming from the cold weather.
When this game was announced in 2013, a six-year contract went along with it, so we’ve got this bowl for at least another three years. Hopefully, we can keep this new, fun bowl tradition alive in the future and see even more faces traveling to the Bahamas to rep their teams.
2016 was probably the best game yet: Old Dominion and Eastern Michigan headed down to the Caribbean and played what was an astounding game on both fronts, though the Old Dominion Monarchs won in a triumphant victory, 24-20.
And because everyone loves an underdog, it made for a great headlines, since the Monarchs were picked to finish second to last in their division before the season.