Will cricket be the next big professional sport to hit Orlando?

Will cricket be the next big professional sport to hit Orlando?
Image via Global Sports Ventures LLC | JLL
Orlando has made the short list of potential host cities for a new U.S. cricket league that an Indian-American investor is planning to launch in the next few years.

Orlando is one of eight cities identified by Global Sports Ventures for a potential home team for their new league. Other cities include East Brunswick, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and north Texas near Dallas.

The Orlando location has yet to be identified, with the potential sites including Lake Nona, downtown or the tourist district. Lake Nona, with its sports district and large swaths of undeveloped land, must be extremely appealing to Global Sports Ventures chairman Jay Pandya.

At the Lake Nona location, Tavistock might be able to offer the group incentives that the city itself can’t or wouldn’t be interested in offering, similar to those used to attract the United States Tennis Association, which opened their new Lake Nona headquarters earlier this year.

Another possible location for the development is within the tourist district.
The Orange County Convention Center has expressed interest in the past for a large arena to be constructed along the south edge of the property. Six years ago, a baseball complex was proposed that would house a Yankee B-League team. That proposal was eventually denied by the county, with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs noting that one of the reasons for the denial was the size of the baseball stadium. It sat roughly 5,000 people, much smaller than what the county was wanting. In comparison, the cricket stadium proposed for the Orlando area would seat 26,000, roughly the same size as the Orlando City Stadium in downtown.

GSV is looking to develop areas around the cricket stadiums to include mixed-use developments with retail, hotel, office and multi-family residential uses. Each of these stadium-anchored developments will cost between $70 million and $125 million. Altogether the eight developments, combined with other costs related to the launch of the new venture, will cost an estimated $2.4 billion and create an estimated 17,800 new jobs nationwide. Each of the mixed-use districts will be unique to that specific market, and will generate approximately $8 billion in salaries over 20 years, according to GSV.

This mixed-use district is very similar to the one proposed as part of the “Yankee Town” complex that was blocked by the county in 2011. On top of the concerns for the stadium size, that development on the southern end of the county-owned convention center land was denied by the county due to concerns about the deed restrictions on the land and the length of time that land was offered in an open competitive bidding process that is required.

The cricket stadium complex could possibly go on other non-development land in the tourist district or possibly even downtown, where the City of Orlando is trying to create a sports-heavy Church Street district stretching from the Camping World Stadium to the Amway Center. The biggest hurdle with that option is the lack of easy-to-develop land that would be required for the new stadium.

Using the shortened Twenty-20 Cricket style – in which matches average three hours in length, compared to traditional ones that can last well over eight hours and sometimes stretch into multiple days – the games in the new league are designed to appeal to current cricket fans while drawing in new ones. Similar shortened versions of cricket are now popular in European leagues.

It’s likely the team will use the Orlando location to market to visitors in a similar way as the Magic and Orlando City Lions have done, both with much success. This focus on out-of-town guests frequenting the games makes the locations in south Orlando much more likely than spots such downtown.

With the goal of launching the new league in 2020, the site selection for each city should be known within the next year.

Let’s just hope this league lasts a bit longer than the XFL. Go Orlando Rage, Orlando Rays, Predators, Fire, Miracle, and the Florida Seals.