Donning armor of red, purple, and gold, Orlando City has established itself as one of the USL Pro’s most dominant teams, winning USL Pro championships in 2011—its inaugural season—and 2012. After their second championship, the squad’s success attracted the attention of the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, who will serve as Orlando City’s parent squad for two years, beginning with the 2013 season.
A fleet of ATVs, Jeep 4x4s, and dune buggies carries passengers on wild, pavement-free rides through more than 240 acres of Floridian tropics at Revolution, The Off-Road Experience. Behind the wheel of a Jeep, or the 8-wheeled amphibious vehicle called the Mucky Duck, drivers can wheel up man made steps instead of looking for a nearby escalator. Alternately, the company?s local body of water, Revolution Lake, lets adventurers take advantage of 60 acres of sport fishing, where they can catch, photograph, and release specimens such as largemouth bass, croppies, snook, and bowfin.
While most people’s biggest water-related fear might be sharks, Phil Pektas's was children. Not the kids themselves, of course, but the prospect of teaching them. This terror first surfaced when he was tapped to fill in for the Pre-K instructor at the swim school where he taught. Fortunately, he conquered that fear during the very first lesson and 20 years later is still introducing young people to the necessary skills for ensuring safe, aquatic fun. Pektas and his staff of American Red Cross–, CPR-, and First-Aid- certified instructors use activities, toys, and analogies to improve performance in the pool. With games such as Bird Catcher, kids will learn how to control their breathing and hunt for sub-aquatic fowl indigenous to chlorinated pools.
Four times a week, the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club unleashes its greyhound dogs for live, competitive contests with up to 16 races per day. Spectators can nosh trackside on savory American fare or wander the grandstand or clubhouse between heats while gazing at the tidy midfield and lush foliage framing the track. A full card of simulcast racing compliments the live action. On monitors throughout the club, nationwide greyhound, thoroughbred, and harness races beam in stretch runs and photo finishes. Once a week, amateur poker players assemble at tables overlooking the track, hoping to win a slot at a monthly or regional tournament, or to get the rare opportunity to play cards with a dog.
The Sanford Orlando Kennel Club nurtures their canine athletes long after retirement with the Adopt a Greyhound program. The initiative places dogs into loving homes with the help of four area adoption agencies, who also find school-bus-driver vacancies for retired stock-car drivers.
Northside Sportsplex presents exercisers with numerous avenues to get fit and stay fit. On its soccer field, the facility hosts tournaments, leagues, and pickup games throughout the week. Competitive juices keep flowing during boot-camp classes, where groups of exercisers power through high-energy workouts under the direction of nationally certified trainers. For a more individualized routine, Northside Sportsplex also offers personal and sport-specific training programs and clinics.
When varsity football arrived at Central Florida in 1979, it capped off a decade of drastic changes on the university's campus. In 1970, the school unveiled its new nickname for athletics: the Knights. At that time, though, UCF wasn't even UCF yet—it was still Florida Technological University, a title that was shed in 1978 to gain larger statewide appeal and minimalize applications from college-aged robots. With a new mascot and a new identity, the school's athletics program began to develop its own personality. The football team wasn't just the Knights; they were the Fighting Knights. The baseball club became the Diamond Knights, and the tennis team the Smashing Knights. It was an era marked by change and by a collective toughness among the school's teams. When it joined Conference USA in 2005, UCF athletics showed similar resolve almost immediately. The football team won conference championships in 2007 and 2010, and the women's basketball team did the same in 2009 and 2010. The 2013–14 seasons mark yet another chapter in the university's history, as it begins competing as part of the Big East.