Former NBA executive Pat Williams, best known for co-founding the Orlando Magic, is ramping up his efforts to bring Major League Baseball to Orlando, announcing a $1.7-billion stadium proposal. According to Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Williams’ proposal is for a 45,000-seat, domed stadium to be built on a 35 ½-acre lot adjacent to Aquatica, a popular theme park owned and operated by SeaWorld.
Ballpark rendering released today as part of a proposal for a @MLB expansion team in Orlando.
The group behind the proposal is led by Pat Williams (most recently served as senior vice president of the NBA’s @OrlandoMagic).
Image via: @orlandosentinel
— MLB Cathedrals (@MLBcathedrals) May 9, 2023
Williams is seeking a reported $975 million in public funding from the Orange County Tourist Development Tax with development plans for retail, restaurants and a hotel property that could generate north of $40 billion in revenue over the next 30 years. While commissioner Rob Manfred concedes that expansion is “inevitable,” Williams would prefer an existing team, specifically citing the Rays, who have gained little traction in their efforts to build a new stadium.
The Rays, throughout their existence, have struggled with attendance, a product of the team’s outdated facility in St. Petersburg. However, the Rays’ hot start (league-best 29-8 record) has helped buck that trend with Tropicana Field opening its upper deck for the first time in years to accommodate larger crowds brought on by the team’s recent success. Seeking a compromise amid calls for relocation, the Rays proposed an interesting alternative, splitting games between Tampa and Montreal, the Expos’ home of 36 years before rebranding as the Washington Nationals in 2005. However, MLB didn’t feel that plan was feasible, leaving the small-market Rays to ponder an uncertain future in Tampa.
Oakland finds itself in a similar predicament, with all signs pointing to the A’s leaving the Bay Area for a new $1.5-billion stadium in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, momentum is building toward MLB eventually launching an expansion team in Nashville with those efforts led by former All-Star pitcher and World Series MVP Dave Stewart. Orlando hasn’t had a baseball presence since the Orlando Rays’ short-lived tenure at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, departing for Montgomery, Alabama in 2004.