Westcourt to provide ‘dynamic urban place’ for Orlando

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The City of Orlando in April granted final approval for a sports and entertainment district that will be developed adjacent to Kia Center, the home of NBA franchise the Orlando Magic.

The $500m (£394.2m/€466.1m) Westcourt venture intends to be an inclusive, vibrant community hub featuring a 3,500-capacity live entertainment venue, full-service 260-key hotel, 270 residential units, office space, and a variety of dining and shopping options.

The development also includes a 1,140-stall parking garage and a 1.5-acre multipurpose outdoor ‘urban living’ room green space. Westcourt is scheduled for delivery beginning in late 2026, through early 2027, and is projected to create 3,400 jobs.

The Magic, and partner SED Development, in October announced JMA Ventures and Machete Group as the team that will deliver the district, with the franchise having been plotting such a development for around a decade.

Machete Group’s extensive background in sports and entertainment venue development includes Kia Center; Chase Center and the adjacent Thrive City mixed-use district in San Francisco; and TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.

With construction of the 900,000 square-foot Westcourt project expected to break ground in late 2024, TheStadiumBusiness.com spoke to David Carlock, principal and founder at Machete Group, to find out more about what the scheme will deliver.

TheStadiumBusiness: Who are the main partners behind Westcourt and what role is the City of Orlando playing?

David Carlock: “Westcourt is being developed by a joint venture between JMA Ventures, Machete Group, and the DeVos family – owners of the Orlando Magic. In addition, the development team has worked and is working closely with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his staff, and the city council to secure public incentives key to moving the project forward.” 

TSB: What is the overriding vision behind the project, and the key goals it has to achieve?

DC: “Westcourt will be a dynamic urban place, unique to the spirit and character of Orlando. Lushly landscaped, infused with local art and culture, and designed as a natural gathering spot, the project will bring the best of hospitality, living, dining, and entertainment to the heart of downtown.

“From special occasion dining and events, to live music and casual meetups with friends, Westcourt will light up Orlando with more to explore, more to do, more to love every day – all in one welcoming destination.”

TSB: The Magic have been attempting to draw up such a venture for around a decade. What challenges have been overcome to reach this stage, and how has this been achieved?

DC: “Large-scale, mixed-use projects are inherently complex. The pandemic and subsequent turbulence in the capital markets have also been factors here, in addition to the typical challenges. Critically, we have an extraordinary local partner in the Magic and a world-class development team that is very familiar with arena-adjacent mixed-use projects.”

TSB: Sports organisations in the U.S. are increasingly looking to develop sports and entertainment districts. What will make Westcourt stand apart from other such developments across the country?

DC: “While Westcourt is well-positioned to provide a welcoming destination for the more than three million guests that visit Kia Center, Exploria Stadium, Camping World Stadium, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts each year, the project has been carefully programmed and designed to thrive independent of those venues.

“With a full service hotel, high rise residential, boutique office, 125,000 square feet of retail, a 3,500 cap music venue, and more than an acre of actively programmed public space, the project will have its own centre of gravity and be its own distinctive place.”

TSB: In terms of the live event venue component, what sort of events are being envisioned as being staged there? More broadly, how will Westcourt serve the City’s wider ambition to bring more sports events to Orlando?

DC: “Orlando, recently named the number one sports business city in America, is already a great sports market. Westcourt will add a flexible 3,500 capacity venue to fill a gap in the market and attract more than 100 promoted events annually.

“In addition, downtown Orlando is in need of first-class event facilities. The live event venue, coupled with ballroom and banquet space, will provide a first-class array of offerings. The Westcourt development team will work closely with the City and key stakeholders including the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, Orlando Economic Partnership, Visit Orlando, and others to take full advantage of all available opportunities.”

TSB: How will Westcourt link with Kia Center, e.g. how will it be utilised to enhance Magic game days and other events held there?

DC: “Located just across Church Street from Kia Center, Westcourt will be Kia Center’s front door.  Church Street is currently closed to vehicular traffic during arena events and Westcourt has been designed to seamlessly integrate with the arena, all the way down to curbless sidewalks.

“Westcourt’s hotel will provide a comfortable destination for event goers who decide to make a night – or weekend – out of the visit. Westcourt’s new, and new-to-market, restaurant and bar concepts will welcome arena guests with an array of offerings at all price points. And the project’s 1.5 acre outdoor urban living room acts as a stage for complementary programming, as well as a place for respite.”

TSB: Looking forward, how will Westcourt benefit the City once it is delivered and are there any figures as to its likely economic impact?

DC: “According to an independent economic impact study, the benefits of this project will be felt immediately. During construction and once it is online, Westcourt will create thousands of jobs and several hundred million dollars of total economic impact.

“In addition, similar projects suggest that Westcourt will spur additional development in the surrounding area, increase nearby property values and tax base, and drive additional visitation to the area.”