Two major professional sports leagues — the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer — are preparing to resume play in Walt Disney World.
And today, representatives of the two Orlando teams (NBA’s Orlando Magic and MLS’s Orlando City Soccer Club) presented to Florida’s Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force to share their plans as they get ready to PLAY BALL (ok, that’s baseball, I know…) at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
National Basketball Association
Alex Martins, CEO Orlando Magic, began with an overview on the plans for the National Basketball Association, starting with a thank you to Orange County’s Mayor Demings and the Task Force for their work. He also thanked their “great partners” at Disney for “working hand in hand with the NBA” to create a safe environment to resume.
Martins reminded those present that the NBA suspended play on March 11 and shared that the league considered “hundreds of different models” to restart the NBA season. Noting the safety of the players, coaches, and staff as the main priority, they determined resuming in one location would be the best way to control safety, and they ultimately selected the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World.
Twenty-two teams will convene on July 7th. Martins also noted that teams began to convene yesterday at their individual practice facilities (where each individual is being tested every other day).
When it comes to getting to Orlando, travel parties will be in groups of 35, and will be quarantined for a few days upon arrival in this “campus community,” when daily testing will also begin.
Three weeks of training camp will precede game play which will begin on July 30th. While no live spectators will be present, the games will be televised “worldwide,” as they are played all day long, rotating among three facilities in the Complex.
Martins also mentioned aspects of the “stringent sanitization” process surrounding every game and the courts they are played on, and those procedures will extend to areas such as weight rooms. Players are encouraged to not leave the campus. If they do, they will be quarantined for “a number of days” before rejoining.
Each team will play 8 games to determine playoff seeding. Once those games are over, the playoffs will begin in their regular playoff format. If there is a NBA Finals Game 7, it would be played on October 13th, meaning that the total time of the NBA in Orlando would be right around 3 months. Throughout that time, players, coaches, and staff will be staying at three Disney World Resort hotels — the Grand Floridian, Disney’s Yacht Club, and the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs.
Martins stated in conclusion that this is a great opportunity for the community, and noted how “Sports has a great ability to help us heal.” In response, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings expressed that it is “truly exciting” to hear about how the NBA has gone to great lengths to ensure safety of its players, giving “kudos” to the NBA and the Orlando Magic.
Major League Soccer
Caesar Lopez, CAO Orlando City Soccer Club, also presented an overview for the return of Major League Soccer. Thanking the Task Force, Lopez noted that all 26 MLS teams will play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in what they are referring to as the MLS is Back Tournament.
Noting that the season had gotten off to a great start, Lopez shared that “we are excited to have a meaningful competition” in the Wide World of Sports Complex. Play will start on July 8th and go until August 11th.
Lopez stated that, similar to the NBA, having all 26 teams come to Orlando gives a chance for the League to control safety measures. Protocols will be in place with all 26 teams in a centralized location. Teams will arrive no later than 7 days prior to the first match in travel parties of no larger than 45.
Prior to arrival, testing will be conducted every other day, and the League has partnered with a lab to streamline the process. Testing will take place again immediately upon arrival in Orlando, and players will be able to train only upon receiving a negative result, in addition to other safety protocols.
Likewise, there will be no fans present at the games, but the League plans to “find innovative and exciting ways” to engage fans through media. He mentioned the hope that this return will be something of a launching platform with a revised regular season schedule in each team’s home market and for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.
Lopez also shared that the schedule will be released this week “if not sooner,” stating that the players are “ready to go” and ready to represent Orlando well. Mayor Jerry Demings, “as a former high school soccer player” himself, stated that “we appreciate what Orlando City has done for our entire community,” extending his thanks to MLS as well.
And that’s the latest sports news from the DFB! We’ll keep you posted as Walt Disney World prepares to welcome not only Major League sports but also is in the process of welcoming guests back to the resort starting with select Resort hotels this week. You can visit any of the links below to catch up on all the latest.
Are you a fan of the NBA or MLS… or both? Please let us know with a comment!