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Williams revives plan for new Orlando MLB ballpark, team

Orlando DreamersVeteran sports exec Pat Williams, a former MiLB player who was key in the launch of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, is once again working on a plan for a new Orlando MLB ballpark for a relocating or expansion major league team under the Orlando Dreamers name.

This is not a new development: Williams has worked on MLB-to-Orlando plans before, most recently in 2019. His Orlando Dreamers campaign would use $975 million in Orange County tourist tax dollars to help pay for a $1.7 billion covered ballpark with a 45,000 capacity and an adjoining 1,000 hotel rooms. He’s estimating a $1.2 billion annual economic impact on a new facility on the I-4 corridor near the Convention Center. (Just what I-4 needs: new afternoon rush-hour traffic generated by baseball fans.)

But baseball in Orlando is a hard sell: Minor League Baseball left the market years ago, spring training left a few years ago, and there may already enough diversions in Orlando, between amusement parks and resorts as well as MLS and NBA teams.

So there is plenty of uncertainty regarding MLB in coming years–will the Rays relocate? When and where will MLB expand? (No, 2028 is far from a lock.) Will MLB expand? Because the Rays are still in talks with St. Petersburg and Tampa over developments featuring new ballparks (St. Petersburg’s been noisier than Tampa folks about the status of talks), Orlando can’t yet take a position on serving as a new home for the Rays. (Yes, it is awfully handy for the Rays as talks continue that Orlando is willing to host the team.) But it is also hard to foresee MLB putting teams in both the Tampa Bay and Orlando markets.

And then there’s the money. Orange County County Mayor Jerry Demings is already putting the brakes on $975 million in public money, telling WESH 2 that a new ballpark would require more private investment: “That would require probably a billion-dollar investment by some private entity or consortium that would be able to make that a reality within our community,”

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