May 11, 2023 - Sports

Orlando Magic founder's $1.7 billion pitch to steal the Rays

Rendering of stadium from Orlando City Baseball Dreamers

Graphic: Courtesy of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers

Orlando Magic co-founder Pat Williams unveiled renderings of a new ballpark intended to lure the Tampa Bay Rays or another Major League Baseball expansion team to Central Florida.

What's happening: Williams and the Orlando City Baseball Dreamers — the group that has been working to bring a baseball team to the Orlando area for years — plan to build a 45,000-seat baseball stadium near International Drive.

  • The project would cost an estimated $1.7 billion to build. Williams filed an application last week with the Orange County Tourist Development Tax task force to help fund the stadium and associated parking garages.

Why it matters: Williams' pitch to the Rays comes while the franchise struggles to get a new ballpark built.

  • St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced in January that the city would move forward with the team's proposal to build a new stadium near Tropicana Field. But the plans are still in the early stages, and the franchise's leaders have warned there are many obstacles ahead.

Between the lines: The Rays have the best record in baseball, but they have the sixth-worst attendance when playing in St. Pete's Tropicana Field, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

What they're saying: "This project is about far more than baseball," Williams said in a press release about the Orlando-area ballpark plan. "It's about creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs and year-round economic impact to support Orange County residents."

  • Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is "confident America's best baseball team will remain in Tampa Bay for many years to come," a spokesperson for the mayor told Axios.
Aerial view of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers stadium.
Graphic: Courtesy of Orlando City Baseball Dreamers
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