By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Calling it an “incredible opportunity for all,” Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner Alex Martins announced on Tuesday that the team was moving its NBA G League team to Kissimmee and the Silver Spurs Arena in time for the 2023-24 season.
Formerly the Lakeland Magic, the team has been rebranded the Osceola Magic and will play the home portion of its 50-game schedule at Silver Spurs beginning in November. Founded in 2017, the franchise played its first six seasons in Lakeland as the Lakeland Magic.
“Our contract was ending in Lakeland and we had a window to hold discussions to either renew our lease or to explore additional venues,” Martins said. “I can tell you those discussions were solely with Osceola County and Heritage Park. This is where we wanted to be.”
Martins went on to acknowledge the help his organization received from Osceola County officials. “We would like to thank Osceola County Chairwoman Viviana Janer, County Manager Don Fisher and Osceola Heritage Park General Manager Robb Larson in assisting us in making this move a reality. We look forward to being an invested partner in Kissimmee and Osceola County.”
“We are excited to bring the Magic and NBA G League basketball to Osceola County, Kissimmee and Osceola Heritage Park,” said Magic CEO Alex Martins. “We would like to thank Osceola County Chairwoman Viviana Janer, County Manager Don Fisher and Osceola Heritage Park General Manager Robb Larson in assisting us in making this move a reality. We look forward to being an invested community partner in Kissimmee and Osceola County.”
Martins spoke on how the relocation brings the G League team closer to its core fan base in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. “Our G League players train at the Amway Center and for that reason alone this move brings our players a lot closer to our home base in Orlando. But more importantly it brings our fan base closer to the team.”
He added that the team was relocating to one of the fastest growing counties in the country. “All you have to do is look across the street and see what’s happening at the Neo City and to the county in general. Osceola is exploding in population, which creates additional opportunities to attract new fans and sponsors.” He went to say the ease of travel for the players was also a factor. “It took us 21 minutes today to get from the Amway Center to Heritage Park,” Martin quipped. “Travel to Lakeland on most days was 90-plus minutes one-way.”
Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman elaborated on the advantages of the move. “We treat our G League team a little bit different than many teams do,” he said. “We are not using this team to solely look for a diamond in the rough or for rehab assignments. Rather we see our G League team as an integral part of our basketball operations. Because we have such a young, fluid roster, it will not be unusual to see us assign draft picks – sometimes even first round picks — to the Osceola Magic.”
Considered to be the second best basketball league in the world in terms of overall talent, the G League consists of 30 teams, of which 28 have one-on-one affiliations with NBA Teams. Seven members of the 2022-23 Orlando Magic squad played games with the team in Lakeland last year, including former first round draft picks R.J. Hampton (Milwaukee), Jonathan Isaac, and Chuma Okeke; as well as second round selections Caleb Houstan and Admiral Scholfield.
In Lakeland, the G League Magic averaged crowds of around 1500, something Osceola Magic Team President Hans Steinbrenner says will improve in the 10,000-seat Silver Spurs Arena. “We are going to be an active part of Kissimmee and the Osceola County community,” Steinbrenner said.
Speaking on behalf of the county, Janer said “Osceola County’s strategic planning continues to attract top tier organizations that share our vision for the community. We are honored to have the Osceola Magic make their new home at OHP. Today, I am proud the Orlando Magic organization is joining the list of marquee partners that call Osceola County and Osceola Heritage Park home.”
When G League team was formed in 2017, Osceola and Heritage Park was in the running to land the franchise but Larson noted the timing was not quite right for “either the county or the Magic.”
In addition to Steinbrenner, the Osceola Magic staff will include Head Coach Joe Barrer, General Manager Kevin Tiller and Assistant General Manager Trent Pennington. Season and group ticket deposits, merchandising or more information fans can call 407-447-2140 or visit Osceolamagic.com. Fans can also follow the team in Instagram, facebook, and Twitter – @OsceolaMagic.