Pat Williams continued his quest to bring Major League Baseball to central Florida by pitching almost $1 billion in tourist tax revenue to fund a new Orlando MLB ballpark in the midst of the city’s tourist and visitor attractions.
Williams’ Orlando Dreamers group is pitching a $1.7-billion development that features a 45,000-capacity domed ballpark with a translucent roof, surrounded by retail, hotels, restaurants and office space, built on 35.5 acres of county land on International Drive near SeaWorld. He’s been using the Orlando Dreamers name while promoting the project–Dreamers is a reference to Walt Disney and his belief in making dreams come true–which would tap Orange County’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds for $975 million. Potential team owners would be on the hook for at least $700 million in additional spending, though a billion is more likely number. The target would be an existing team looking to relocate–i.e., the Tampa Bay Rays–or an expansion team, though landing an expansion team with very strong markets in play (Nashville, Montreal, Portland) would be a virtually impossible task if the Rays remain in Tampa.
He made his pitch for the project as a recipient of tourism tax funding to the Orange County Tourist Development Tax Citizen Advisory Task Force, charged with allocating an abundance of tourism tax proceeds. Per the Orlando Sentinel:
“If we don’t do that,” asked Ken Robinson, representing Central Florida hoteliers, “if the Orange County commission doesn’t agree to do that, are you saying there’s zero chance for baseball in Orlando?”
Yes, zero chance, Williams replied.
Other baseball skeptics said the county has more pressing needs for tourist tax funds, known as TDT, or Tourist Development Tax.
Yes, Williams said, but state law doesn’t allow TDT to be spent on affordable housing or education.
Williams is a former MiLB front office worker, inspirational speaker and disciple of the late Bill Veeck. As GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, he was key to Orlando landing the NBA’s Magic. So he brings some credibility to the proposal. But a $975 million ask is a major one, even though Orange County’s tourism task has been outperforming expectations as of late, and given the uncertainly surrounding the availability of an MLB team, this project is certainly a long shot–for now.
Rendering courtesy Orlando Dreamers.
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