Orlando Magic celebrates the DIsney Model

ORLANDO — It’s being called the “Disney Model.”

When COVID-19 became a major health concern in February, it led to the shutdown of the Amway Center,  the major sports and entertainment arena in downtown Orlando and home to the Orlando Magic and the Solar Bears. The Amway is not expected to reopen this year. The Magic suspended its season on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the Magic were one of the 22 teams invited to the NBA Bubble to participate in the final eight seeding games of the regular season.
Now, the Greater Orlando Sports Commission is noting that Orlando has become “the epicentre of the resurrection of professional sport in North America” following the initial outbreak of coronavirus, in part by how the city responded to the pandemic. Those safety measures had a major impact on sports.
Orlando’s success in avoiding any new cases being recorded inside the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer is being called the “Disney Model,” because of the ongoing training and practice happening at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Of Sports.

What Is the Disney Model?

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, both MLS and the NBA went to Disney’s 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to return to action, hoping the Disney facility would provide a safe place for training. As the Greater Orlando Sports Commission noted,”As it turned out, no cases were recorded inside the NBA and MLS bubbles in Orlando, a city now synonymous with sport’s post-Covid recovery.”
And despite being one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions — Orlando attracted a record-setting 75 million tourists in 2018 alone — as the commission noted, ” … for a few months this summer, the most-visited destination in the United States made a success out of shutting itself off from the rest of the world,” and demonstrated that professional sports could successfully protect its player from the spread of the pandemic.
“I think our ability to pivot as quickly as we did certainly shines a bright light on Orlando,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “Because of that we’ve had multiple inquiries from many other industries and associations who are looking to Orlando when they restart.”
Alex Martins, CEO of Orlando Magic, agreed that it was significant that the city of Orlando had managed to protect its prominent sports players from the pandemic.

“I don’t believe there’s any other location, certainly in our country, where we could have had that kind of accommodation, those kind of basketball facilities,” Martins said. “I really don’t think there is another location in the country where all of that could have come together in such a complete fashion, and most importantly in such a health and safety fashion.”

That successful is expected to be known as the DIsney Model in the future.

How has Orlando Coped During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

For a while during the summer months, Florida became the epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 10,000 new cases being recorded daily. On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 4,353 new cases statewide, bringing the state’s total to 852,174 cases since March. DOH also reported 69 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths across the state to 17,460.

Orange County remains under a mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the virus, and health experts are continuing to recommend social distancing measures, including on Thanksgiving gatherings. They’re urging people to stay safe by staying home on the holiday, avoiding travel, and gathering outdoors if possible.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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