Keep up with Lakeland.
Get your local news delivered right to your inbox. Each Thursday, you’ll receive the latest news, and a preview of weekend events.
Last November, before Brian Bruchey took his son Reagan to the Lakeland Magic game at the RP Funding Center to celebrate the boy’s 14th birthday, Bruchey contacted team officials and asked if they do anything for special occasions.
“THEY HOOKED THAT KID UP!” Bruchey wrote in an email to LkldNow, explaining that his son got everything from a giant foam #1 finger and some team shirts to a bobblehead and a water bottle. “Plus they had him do a game on the big screen.”
So Bruchey, who works in communications, was saddened to hear that the Magic is leaving town at the end of June when the team’s contract expires with the RP Funding Center. The Orlando Magic, the owner of the G League franchise, is moving the team to Kissimmee, officials announced Tuesday.
The team will be rebranded as the Osceola Magic and their new home will be in Osceola Heritage Park, beginning play at Silver Spurs Arena in November 2023, CEO and Managing Partner Alex Martins announced Tuesday.
The team’s new name and logo were already on its Twitter account by early afternoon.
“We are excited to bring the Magic and NBA G League basketball to Osceola County, Kissimmee and Osceola Heritage Park,” said Martins in a press release. “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.”
In 2017, Orlando’s league team moved to Lakeland from Erie, Pa. In 2021, the Lakeland Magic won the G League championship. According to the Magic’s website, the G League is the NBA’s official developmental league, preparing players, coaches, officials, trainers and front office staff for careers in the NBA, while acting as the league’s research and developmental laboratory.
The NBA G League features 30 teams – 28 with one-to-one affiliations with NBA franchises. This past season, 49 G League players earned NBA call-ups. During the 2022-23 season which ended March 25, seven members of the Orlando Magic spent time in the G League with their affiliate.
News of the move was disappointing for Tony Camarillo, the RP Funding Center manager, who had been negotiating with the team.
“We feel confident we can replace the (Magic’s) revenue plus more,” Camarillo said.
Camarillo has already replaced some funding when he negotiated an extension of the naming rights with Robert Palmer. Camarillo got a five-year, $250,000-a-year deal, for a total of $1.25 million — $100,000 more per year than the original agreement. Palmer is a Lakeland native who graduated from Lakeland High School in 1998 in the building that now bears his company’s name. When the center was renamed in 2017, RP Funding had an office on Main Street in downtown Lakeland; it has since closed.
Under the original agreement, the Magic got most of the sponsorship money, with the city recouping about $150,000 annually, with other sponsorship deals adding about $30,000 to that. When the $8,400-per-game fee, parking, concessions and sponsorship revenue was factored in, the team generated about $400,000 a year at the center.
“It is as profitable as any business we have put in the center,” Camarillo said in March, explaining that the team’s biggest value is 24 “guaranteed dates” that generate “good guaranteed money.”
Camarillo said the Magic had been looking for a 10-year extension, but Camarillo was leaning more toward a five-year deal, with incentives built in.
The Magic are dealing with post-pandemic hesitancy as well, he said. The games “haven’t been drawing like” they did in 2019 when more than 1,000 fans a game were showing up. “They’re not quite at that level yet, like everyone else,” he said.
Camarillo said game attendance averaged about 500-700 fans per game.
According to ticketsmarter.com, seats sold for about $15 each, but could go higher, depending on their location. The Lakeland Magic’s Facebook page has 11,000 followers and 10,000 likes.
Camarillo, though, was stuck between a basketball and the wishes of Mayor Bill Mutz. At a retreat last year, Mutz assigned him the task of cutting $800,000 from the $1.8 million subsidy the RP Funding Center projected it will request from the city in next year’s budget — down from $4.4 million annual subsidies three years ago. The City Commission has been considering bringing in a professional venue management company or consultant.
A source in a position to know the inner workings of negotiations said Camarillo had proposed doubling the team’s rent.
“That played a factor in them losing the team, coupled with proximity and what is going on with the population in Osceola,” the source said.
The source added that constantly clogged traffic on I-4 was a headache for team officials traveling to Lakeland from Orlando. In addition, Osceola County has a higher population and could more easily fill the 10,000-seat Silver Spur arena.
Tony Camarillo kept the RP Funding Center doors open during a seven-year, $16 million renovation, negotiated a five-year, $5 million sponsorship deal that brought the Magic to Lakeland and reduced the city’s annual operations subsidy by 60% despite enduring a pandemic-induced “worst year ever” in 2020.
For FY 22, which began Oct. 1, Camarillo forecasted the center’s total revenues would top $5.2 million, with costs about $8.23 million — a $3 million deficit.
Of that $3 million, $500,000 is from the city’s public improvement fund (PIF), $653,000 is annual interest payment on the $16.3 million Series 2017A bond the city issued to co-finance the center’s 2017-21 renovation with Polk County, and $1.874 million is a direct transfer from the city’s general fund to cover operational shortfalls.
Mutz on Tuesday was circumspect.
“We hope Lakeland Magic performs excellently in their new Kissimmee home,” Mutz said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to have tested the suitability of having a G League team play in Lakeland. From my perspective, the consistently low fan turnout despite the Lakeland Magic’s excellent league performance indicates Lakeland, as a midsized city, is too small to garner the consistently desired larger fan turnout.”
He added that the Center will immediately have more flexible use of the arena event space, resulting in increasing rental revenue to the RP Funding Center and greater financial net benefit as a result.
Currently, The RP Funding Center is home to the Florida Tropics Soccer Club of the Major Arena Soccer League.
“We already have soccer … we have several different events that can be placed in those dates including sports, cheer, entertainment and tradeshow opportunities,” Camarillo said.
For Bruchey and his son, their days of watching the Magic will end when the team leaves in June.
“I don’t anticipate travelling to Kissimmee to watch the Magic,” Bruchey said. “Reagan and I have enjoyed Lakeland Magic and Florida Tropics games because they are fun to watch and follow, they’re nicely priced, and close to home. Kissimmee isn’t a long drive, but I just prefer to have my fun in Polk County.”
SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: email@example.com