Is Major League Baseball coming to I-Drive in Orlando?
Orlando residents have basketball Hall-of-Famer Pat Williams to thank for bringing the NBA to Orlando, and now, he’s setting his sights on Major League Baseball and a potential new baseball stadium built in the heart of the tourist district on International Drive.
According to Founder and President Williams, the group he’s leading to bring baseball to Orlando is called the Dreamers as “a nod to Walt Disney and Arnold Palmer and the many other visionaries who helped develop this area into the special place it has become.”
Immediately following MLB’s 2019 announcement of plans to expand by two cities, Williams set to work enlisting support from Central Florida baseball fans (just like he did to bring the Orlando Magic to town). Already over 12,000 people have expressed interest in purchasing season tickets.
“Orlando has proven in the years since the Magic began playing in 1989 that it is every bit a big league sports town,” Williams said. “The Orlando Magic is as popular as ever, soccer fans have embraced the Orlando City Lions, and now it’s time to step up to the plate and make baseball happen, too.
Why Should MLB Come to Orlando?
The bigger question is why shouldn’t MLB come to Orlando. Currently, it’s the country’s largest media market without a major league baseball team (larger than nine markets that already have teams), but Orlando is also the most popular U.S. travel destination, with over 75 million visitors in 2022.
Calculating increased interest over the next several years, thanks in part to Universal’s Epic Universe theme park and Orlando’s new Brightline high-speed rail system, it’s estimated the city could see 100 million tourists annually by 2030. That’s a lot of baseball fans.
Even if only 4% of projected Orlando tourists attended only one baseball game, that would put Orlando at #6 for MLB season attendance.
A New State-of-the-Art Stadium
The group envisions Orlando’s new 45,000-seat domed stadium would combine an innovative architectural design (like a roof that also provides natural sunlight) with immersive and interactive aspects to maximize the fan experience.
“This stadium would make us the leading candidate for the next MLB franchise,” Williams said. “Best media market, best stadium, best location…we have everything here in Orlando.”
The location for the new stadium is a 35.5-acre parcel on International Drive between SR 528 and the Aquatica Orlando water park, which will challenge it to meet – or even exceed – the high standards already set by its Orlando neighbors.
“We wanted to create something special, something both Orlando residents and tourists alike would enjoy,” Williams said. “Being located in the heart of the tourist district and the 80 million visitors we see in Orlando annually we understand this venue must be an attraction unto itself. We are designing the stadium with the fan experience in mind and are using innovation to create a unique experience unlike anything seen in Major League Baseball.”
The proposed MLB stadium and associated parking garages will cost approximately $1.7 billion. In addition to the new stadium, the project would include office space, retail shops, approximately 1,000 hotel rooms, restaurants, a music venue, and a baseball museum. The Dreamers also plan to build youth ballparks across Orange County as part of their effort to promote youth baseball.
Orlando Dreamers Sports Advisory Board
Along with Orlando Dreamers Pat Williams and the rest of the leadership team, the Dreamers’ Sports Advisory Board includes NBA Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson; Milwaukee Bucks Center Brooke Lopez; National Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jim Kaat; former Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle; former New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, and Cincinnati Reds General Manager Murray Cook; and former Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations and Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers General Manager John Hart.
Representing Orlando area Dr. Phillips High School on the board are hometown heroes (and 1992 classmates) two-time MLB All-Star and two-time World Series Champion Johnny Damon and two-time MLB All-Star and World Series Champion A.J. Pierzynski.
What’s in a Name?
A statement on the official Orlando Dreamers website notes while the group bringing Major League Baseball to Orlando is called the Orlando Dreamers, the baseball team would be “the community’s team.” Therefore, the statement reads, “when the time is right we want the community to be involved in choosing the baseball team’s name and colors.”
For more information, visit www.OrlandoDreamers.com or follow Orlando Dreamers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.