Disney Springs reopens and the NBA seems closer to restarting in Orlando

The Magic Kingdom still sits empty as Disney plans to present its reopening plan to local leaders. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
The Magic Kingdom still sits empty as Disney plans to present its reopening plan to local leaders. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Disney Springs is reopening and the property and the league seems closer to restarting in Orlando at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.

Thursday is a big step toward a return to normalcy. Really it started last week with Universal Orlando reopening its entertainment district, CityWalk, to limited capacity and limited openings.

But with all due respect to the UOTeam, the rest of the world judges Orlando’s reopening by when Disney returns to full steam. That is the monolith and the driver of the economy throughout Central Florida.

It is the focus of so many restart plans throughout sports — not just the NBA, but also MLS. Disney’s property is key to sports restarting in a way that will keep players and staff quarantined from the virus and able to finish off their season.

And Disney has started to reopen. Wednesday marked the reopening of Disney Springs, their entertainment district, with social distancing and limited opening policies.

Disney is beginning to inch open. And Disney, Universal and SeaWorld will present their reopening plans to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for approval, the first step in the parks reopening under the state’s phased reopening plan.

And that includes good news involving the NBA’s potential return. Momentum is clearly picking up for the NBA to return and there seems to be a good chance it will take place at Disney, even as the park begins to reopen to the general public.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report Disney has established itself as the frontrunner to host the league’s return from the hiatus the virus caused.

Adam Silver is expected to make a decision within the next 2-4 weeks on how the season will resume.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has reportedly already begun some discussions with the NBA and its board of governors. He was reportedly on a conference call with team owners and chairmen late last month.

Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports was the first to bring the idea of playing at Disney to mainstream audiences reports that Disney is already beginning to prepare to host games at its ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The idea of playing at Disney — a private property that can cordon off hotel space, amenities and playing space without jumping through governmental loops — has reportedly been the most popular plan among owners and players. The league appears to be aiming to start training again in mid-June with games starting in mid-July.

The plan for the league seems to have players and staff quarantined together in a hotel with limited if any access. All those inside this “campus setting” would be tested daily before interacting with anyone else to ensure they can stop any spread of the virus.

Teams would be able to play games at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. It has multiple gyms that can hold multiple courts for television broadcasts and practices. It would be able to hold the massive crush and rush of trying to get all the games in.

There are likely still details to iron out. But the fact a place is beginning to prepare itself is ultimately good news.

These are at least positive signs things are moving in the right direction toward a return. Tangible signs are better than no signs at the moment.

Orange County has been one of the leaders in the nation among major metropolitan areas attacking the virus. A big part of that was the fairly early decision from the theme parks to shut down, stemming the tide in a place where the virus could have easily spread.

Orange County reported only nine new cases Tuesday. That does not mean the area is out of the woods. The eight-county Central Florida area reported six deaths Tuesday. So there is still at least some concern about reopening too soon. But the numbers in Orange County and Orlando have been generally positive.

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The idea of playing at Disney is certainly one that is gaining traction and now appears to be morphing into a reality.