Orlando Has Room For One More?


Aside from the Magic, Orlando has been a hotspot for minor league sports. Various minor league teams — from the vaunted Orlando Solar Bears and Orlando Predators, to the short-lived Orlando Jackals (roller hockey, look it up), to the long-standing minor league baseball Orlando Rays/Twins, to the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle and now to the emerging Orlando City Soccer (heading to the USL Pro Semifinals next Saturday at the Citrus Bowl). The Rays even made an in-season trip to Disney a few years ago.

The Magic were the city’s first shot at the big time with a professional sports franchise. The community really got behind the Magic in those early years to build the Orlando Arena and help the growing city take a big step onto the national stage.

Having a sports team is very much a source of city pride and prestige. While it is questionable whether arenas provide a positive economic impact on the community (in some ways they do, and others they do not), there is no denying the higher quality of life they can add to a city.

Amway Center has helped transform Church Street and Downtown Orlando in a lot of ways. Orlando is seeing these benefits with many more big-name concerts coming to town and new restaurants opening up alongside the arena and on Church Street.

Orlando has seen its growth slow down in the economic turndown over the last few years. Orlando had a lot of its economy tied up in the real estate market and its big growth project — the Medical City near Lake Nona and Innovation Way — has not developed as quickly as the city anticipated.

Still Orlando is a much bigger city than perhaps it wants to recognize. It IS in the professional sports club. And while it only has one team, a new study suggests Orlando could support another professional sports team.

The Business Journals’ On Numbers blog took a look at the amount of personal income individuals in a city would need to support professional sports franchises. The study found that 22 additional markets in the United States and Canada could support an NBA franchise. The study determined the minimum income base to support an NBA franchise is $34.2 billion.

According to numbers released from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Orlando-Kissimmee-Stanford metropolitan area is third in the state in terms of total personal income in 2010 with $75.289 billion. Thtat is also 30 out of 366 metro areas the bureau ranks by this metric.

If you take out the $34.2 billion of personal income The Business Journal determined was necessary for an NBA franchise out of the equation, the market still has $41.089 billion of personal income remaining.

That might mean, according to The Business Journal’s report and study, Orlando could support another professional sports team.

The study determined to support an NFL team, a city would need $36.7 billion of personal income; for an MLB team it would need $85.4 billion; for NHL, $37.6 billion; and for MLS, $15.4 billion.

From a pure dollars and cents perspective, Orlando could support one more professional sports team.

Actually doing so is another question entirely of course, seeing as all but an NHL team would require the city to build a new stadium. Even the MLS would possibly ask Orlando or the owners of its new team to build a soccer-specific stadium.

Here, it should be noted that there are currently no teams looking to move into the Orlando market from the NFL or NHL. The Lightning are making a trip from Tampa for a preseason game at Amway Center.

Orlando City Soccer moved to Orlando from Austin this year with the express intention of moving up to MLS in 3-5 years. After winning the regular season title and advancing to the USL Pro semifinals (Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Citrus Bowl, if you are interested), they could be well on their way. For Orlando City, the non-renovated Citrus Bowl could hold them back when and if that time comes.

Now, is certainly not the time for the city to look to expand its professional sports profile in a major way. Orlando’s total personal income increased 2.48 percent from 2009, ranking 245 out of the 366 cities profiled by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The city is growing, but very slowly compared to other major cities.

Considering, the city has been hit hard by the economic downturn and no new major building projects could even be contemplated with the city’s current budget, these numbers present no more than a hypothetical.

But it is nice to know the city has the potential of hosting another top-flight professional team.

Photos via DayLife.com.