Four years ago officials decided to expand the 17,000-seat Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., where Oklahoma State is scheduled to play Brigham Young on Dec. 17, and turn it into a big-league 51,000-seat stadium. Construction was delayed for two years by court wrangles that ended at just about the time the stadium's only steady tenant, the Florida Blazers of the World Football League, went into bankruptcy and folded. Despite that and despite building costs that were far higher than original estimates, work began. But when the expansion was completed in September 1975, alarming bends were found in some of the supporting steelwork (SCORECARD, Oct. 20, 1975) and the bowl remained closed another year for further repairs.
Two weeks ago, the reopened T-Bowl had its first big game: Florida vs. Miami. More than 40,000 were on hand, including Ed Weiss of Apopka, Fla. and his son Robert, who were in the upper deck on the stadium's east side.
"When the national anthem was played we all rose, moving forward to stand," Weiss says. "The stadium moved forward with us. It was amazing. People looked at one another to see what was happening. A few, maybe 30 or 40, moved toward the exits as soon as the anthem was over." Patricia Dowling, a schoolteacher who was one of those who left, says, "It was frightening."
Weiss and his son remained. They thought of moving to seats elsewhere in the stadium but, feeling that a rush to the exits could lead to a stampede, decided it would be better to sit down and stay. "But I'll tell you this," Weiss says. "We really didn't jump up and down much after that."
Stress tests were made after the game and officials reported that nothing was structurally wrong. Orlando Director of Public Safety Howard McClain says, "The movement in the stands is normal. Engineers expected it. People were just overreacting to publicity the stadium has received in the past."