Editor Note: ‘Early Entrants’ is a series of sports business ‘rumblings’ before the news breaks.
Orlando Magic co-founder Pat Williams (and his associates) held a press conference on November 20th to announce their intent to bring Major League Baseball to central Florida, but the idea appears to be little more than a pipe dream. One MLB club owner told JohnWallStreet “Orlando is a nice city and it could be a [market] where a team could succeed, but the group promoting [the idea] doesn’t have the capability to own and operate a franchise.” Much like the collective looking to bring baseball to Nashville, “[Williams and his colleagues] are mostly managers and promoters. It’s unlikely that they have adequate funding. They’re looking for someone to come in and back them.”
Of course, unless the Tampa Bay Rays were to relocate, Williams’ group would never be permitted to bring a team to Orlando, anyway. MLB rules permit clubs to veto relocation if the move encroaches on their home market and Tampa Bay would certainly oppose another franchise taking up residence less than 100 miles up I-4. Williams’ & Co. seem to be banking on baseball not being long for Tampa. They’ve yet to reach out to Rays managing general partner Stuart Sternberg to discuss their plans.
As for the Rays, our source was not optimistic that the franchise would “find a stadium deal that works in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area” and thus believes “relocation makes sense.” While a move may be logical, it sounds as if eventually splitting the season between Tampa and Montreal remains “[Sternberg’s] current thinking.” If relocation does occur, expect it to be out of state; the Rays ownership group has looked at Orlando and doesn’t believe the city can support a second pro franchise.
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