ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida may be on its way to getting a second major sports team, at least if Orlando Magic co-founder Pat Williams gets his way. Williams is proposing a $1.7 billion stadium built in Orlando, for a potential team he's calling the Orlando Dreamers.
Despite being one of the most common home states of MLB players, Florida was without a team for over a century of the league's history. That changed when the Florida Marlins set up camp in Miami back in 1993, and eventually became the Miami Marlins of today. The Tampa Bay Rays followed suit in 1998.
Baseball in Florida has had mixed success. The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003, while the Rays are still without a championship despite two appearances. Among the challenges Williams will have to navigate to bring a team to Orlando is a troubling narrative that one of the state's teams is already trying to leave the state due to poor attendance.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since their inaugural season a quarter century ago. While the stadium has mostly hosted the team's home games without issue, fans have long complained that it lacks personality, and it's too far away from downtown Tampa. Whisperings persisted for years that the Rays may leave for Las Vegas, Nashville, or even London. In 2019 it was revealed the Rays were considering splitting their seasons between Tampa and Montreal, and with that plan now behind them their owner has confirmed they're considering a full relocation.
This opens up the possibility that the Rays may relocate to Orlando instead of the city getting a new team altogether. But this remains nothing more than speculation, as nothing about the Rays' future is set in stone.
Similarly uncertain is how the myriad of moving parts affect the chances of an Orlando MLB team happening anytime soon. Another factor is the ambitiousness of Williams' plan - he plans to build not only a stadium with capacity for 45,000 guests, but 1,000 hotel rooms and parking garages for 6,700 cars on-property as well. The full rendition of his plan depicts a plan much larger and more all-encompassing than most any existing MLB facility.
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