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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Orlando Group Tries to Lure MLB With Stadium Proposal

Image Courtesy of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers LLC

An Orlando group led by Orlando Magic co-founder Pat Williams is pushing for a Major League Baseball franchise in Orlando. First announced in 2019, the Orlando Dreamers would be either an MLB expansion franchise or a relocated Tampa Bay Rays team situated right in the heart of Orlando's tourism corridor.

Williams unveiled plans for a 45,000-seat stadium complex, loaded on a 35+ acre tract of land across the street from SeaWorld Orlando, next to their Aquatica waterpark. Situated off International Drive near the intersection of I-4 and SR-528, the site would also include 6,700 parking spaces in garages as well as office spaces and a 1,000-room hotel. The stadium would also have a walkover bridge to connect to a proposed SunRail station at the adjacent Orange County Convention Center.

Image Courtesy of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers LLC

The timing of the announced proposal comes after the Oakland Athletics announced they would be moving to Las Vegas to a new stadium there. Tampa Bay continues to hang in the balance with several stadium proposals having fallen through over the past few years.

"This market is growing rapidly and growing in all four directions. They tell us a thousand people a day are moving to Central Florida and that doesn't take into account that this year there'll be 80 million visitors," Williams said. "If we do this, [Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings] said, this ballpark has to be a tourist attraction unto itself. He said people from around the world are going to have to put this on their 'checklist.'"

Williams' group filed an official motion with Orange County, Florida to request funding for the stadium. Funding would come from a mix of public and private money. The initial price tag for the project sits at $1.7 billion, with $700 million coming from private funding.

The remaining $975 million would be funded by a 30-year municipal bond paid for by Orange County's Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds. No additional funding for the stadium or its daily operation would be required or requested from government sources beyond this initial requested investment.

"This stadium would make us the leading candidate for the next MLB franchise. Best media market, best stadium, best location...we have everything here in Orlando," said Williams. "You don't get many chances to add a professional sports franchise to your community. If we don't act now, we may never have this opportunity again."

A report by JLL, a national professional services firm hired by the Williams group, states that construction would result in 20,000 jobs and boost the region's economy by $2.7 billion. Once finished, the stadium would increase jobs by 25,000 and generate an annual economic output of $1.16 billion per year to Orange County. Potential growth includes additional events at the stadium, including potential spring training games.

“Orlando has proven in the years since the Magic began playing in 1989 that it is every bit a big league sports town,” said Williams. “The Orlando Magic is as popular as ever, soccer fans have embraced the Orlando City Lions, and now it’s time to step up to the plate and make baseball happen, too."

Image Courtesy of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers LLC

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