Dreamers: Pat Williams hopes to bring MLB team to Orlando

Orlando Magic co-founder cites city’s growth, tourism as reasons team would be successful

ORLANDO, Fla. – The man credited with bringing an NBA franchise to Orlando is now hoping to do the same with a Major League Baseball team.

Donning a red baseball hat with the letter "O" between a star on either side, Pat Williams, co-founder of the Orlando Magic, on Tuesday introduced the concept of the Orlando Dreamers, a team he hopes the Central Florida community will rally around to convince MLB to place a team in The City Beautiful.

“Why are we here?” Williams asked at the start of a news conference. “Orlando keeps growing and sports needs to be part of that. Our next step is to try to become an MLB city.”

Williams said the first and most important step is to discover how badly the Central Florida community desires an MLB franchise.

“Questions will come up about a stadium, location, ownership and mascot," Williams said. “That’s not pertinent right now.”

Williams introduced a website for the team, orlandodreamers.com, to gauge the interest of the community. On the site, visitors can enter personal information and signal whether they’d be interested in signing up for season tickets.

“If we get kind of response we think, we hope, we’ll keep plowing forward,” Williams said.

Williams, a former minor league baseball player, announced his retirement from the Orlando Magic in May. But he said his interest was piqued when he heard a news report that MLB was considering expanding by two teams to get to 32.

“Montreal, Vancouver, Portland, Las Vegas, Nashville and Charlotte. No offense to any of these six cities, but when I read that my competitive blood rose and kept rising,” Williams said. “So, I came out of retirement.”

Williams cited several factors and statistics that he said bolsters his belief an MLB team would succeed in Orlando, the 18th market in the United States.

“We had 75 million tourists last year, 2,000 people move here each week and OIA is the largest airport in Florida,” Williams said. "And yet we weren’t even listed among those six?”

Much like he did 33 years ago with the Magic, Williams came up with a team name and showed off a team hat and T-shirt.

“We have a nickname. When I say Disney, Arnold Palmer, John Young, what do you think?" Williams asked. “They’re all dreamers, everyone of them. We will be the Orlando Dreamers.”

Williams then unbuttoned his Hawaiian shirt to reveal a red T-shirt that had the words “Orlando Dreamers” on it, with two baseball bats crossed over a baseball. He said team merchandise, however, is not yet available.

“We’ve got to see if the community is behind this," he said.

Williams, who said his friends and volunteers are helping him lead the effort to land a team, was asked why Orlando would succeed when Miami and Tampa Bay are struggling.

“I’m convinced that this market is different,” Williams said. “If 2% of tourists want to go to a ballgame, that’s 1.6 million," said Williams, who stated that the Marlins and Rays combined to sell 1.9 million tickets last season.

"There’s every reason to believe we could be a 3 million (tickets sold) franchise someday,” he said. “Orlando is a different market. It’s a special market.”

Williams said job No. 1 is simple: “(We have to) make this package here so attractive and so luscious that people say, ‘Boy, we’ve got to get there.’”

When asked about a timeline, Williams said securing a property, building a park and overruns would take at least six years.

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