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Design & Development

Orlando group targets MLB with $1.7bn ballpark project

Images: Orlando City Baseball Dreamers

Images: Orlando City Baseball Dreamers

Orlando City Baseball Dreamers, a group established to bring Major League Baseball (MLB) to Orlando and Central Florida, has unveiled plans for a $1.7bn (£1.35bn/€1.55bn) ballpark project.

The Orlando Dreamers group is being led by Pat Williams, founder of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, who originally explored bringing a MLB team to the Orlando area back in 2019. The first renderings of the ballpark vision were unveiled yesterday (Tuesday), featuring a domed stadium with a capacity of up to 45,000 fans, with innovative architectural features to create more intimate atmospheres for better fan experiences.

Williams, founder and president of Orlando Dreamers, said in a statement: “We wanted to create something special, something both Orlando residents and tourists alike would enjoy.

“Being located in the heart of the tourist district and the 80 million visitors we see in Orlando annually; we understand that this venue must be an attraction unto itself. We are designing the stadium with the fan experience in mind and are using innovation to create a unique experience unlike anything seen in Major League Baseball.”

According to a report and analysis conducted by professional services firm JLL, the stadium’s construction phase will result in more than 20,000 jobs and a boost of over $2.7bn to the economy in the region.

In the operational phase, with an MLB team playing 81 home games a year in the stadium, permanent job creation is expected to increase to nearly 25,000, and the MLB team and stadium operations are estimated to generate an annual output of $1.16bn in Orange County.

In aggregate, the JLL study states the impact to Orange County from bringing MLB to the county to play in the proposed domed stadium will be in excess of $40bn over 30 years when including the impact of spring training and other development on the proposed 35.5-acre parcel of land.

The Dreamers’ proposal calls for $700m in private funds, what is said to be the largest private investment ever for a publicly owned MLB stadium. The stadium and associated parking garages are anticipated to cost approximately $1.7bn.

In addition to the new stadium, which would be owned by Orange County, the project is designed to include office space, retail shops, approximately 1,000 hotel rooms, restaurants, a music venue, and a baseball museum.

Orlando Dreamers’ recent application for Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds calls for Orange County to issue a $975m, 30-year municipal bond, with the balance of the project to be financed by the MLB team and its affiliates. No additional government funding for ongoing stadium operations or capital expenditure would be required from Orange County beyond the initial investment.

“Given the limited uses of the TDT funds by law, we are confident that no other project – past or future – compares as favourably as our project when considering job creation and economic impact,” said Williams.

Orlando is the largest media market in the United States without an MLB team. St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch in January selected a proposal from the Tampa Bay Rays and real estate company Hines to develop the site on which Tropicana Field, the team’s home stadium, currently sits.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said league expansion will not be considered until the Rays and Oakland Athletics secure new ballparks. Dave Kaval, president of the A’s, confirmed last month that the team had signed a binding agreement to acquire land near the Las Vegas Strip to build a new ballpark.

Williams said yesterday: “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. 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.”

Despite Orlando Dreamers’ planning, a potential owner for an MLB franchise has yet to be identified. Talks are being held with investors, with Williams telling Fox 35 Orlando: “Usually, it’s the owner who interviews potential employees. In this case, the employees are interviewing the owner to decide what owner we want. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before.”