Pat Williams May Want The Tampa Bay Rays In Orlando, Not An Expansion Baseball Team

Orlando is close to Tampa Bay.

Pat Williams may be moving away from his goal of getting an Orlando, Florida Major League Baseball expansion team. Williams may have his eyes on the getting the Tampa Bay Rays franchise in the market. The 79-year-old Williams knows he has an uphill battle in getting a team. Major League Baseball is in no hurry to expand and the Rays ownership lease to use the St. Petersburg, Florida domed stadium ends in 2027. Williams failed in an attempt to land a Major League Baseball expansion franchise for Orlando in the 1990s. Williams thinks he can land the Rays by building a publicly financed domed stadium in a market that is one of the five fastest growing counties in the United States. Williams would dip into tourism taxes not local property tax or a range of other taxes to fund the project. Williams envisions foreign tourists going to Disney World or Universal by day and baseball at night.

Orlando is Florida’s fourth largest city Williams does not think highly of St. Petersburg as a sports market and doesn’t think the Tampa Bay market is all that great for Major League Baseball. Orlando is east of Tampa and would capture Tampa area baseball consumers. Williams is not interested in sharing a franchise with St. Petersburg or Tampa. He wants a full-time team and claims he has a waiting list of more than 11,000 people interested in buying season tickets. Williams also thinks he will have a good TV deal and corporate support for a team. But there is no rush. In December 2019, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told the Rays owners franchise that the team must play every home game scheduled in St. Petersburg through the 2027 season. That means the plan of playing Rays summer home games in Montreal beginning in 2024 is dead. Rays owner Stu Sternberg isn’t sure Tampa Bay and Montreal are economically good baseball markets. Williams is patiently waiting.

Pat Williams, co-founder of the NBA Orlando Magic basketball team. AP-PHOTO
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