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E-Sports, Foreign Tourism Key Drivers For Orlando Magic

Rendering of the Orlando Magic's planned $200M sports and entertainment complex in Downtown Orlando

For one of Florida's NBA teams, both foreigners and video games are magic.

Orlando Magic head of sales Michael Forde said that on some home game nights, 20% of the attendees at Amway Center are visitors from outside the country. And that is very good for team vendor sales. Since a visitor's attendance may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they could spend “thousands and thousands of dollars on swag,” Forde said.

“They don't know that they'll ever come back to an NBA game, so we love when they come in,” he said.

That has led to the Magic installing an eight-person tourism department, one of the only NBA teams with a marketing team charged exclusively with marketing to tourists, especially from outside the U.S. Forde said the team sees attendees from Europe, Brazil and the Middle East.

“The best thing about those [attendees] is they're not price sensitive,” he said.

Audience at Bisnow's first annual Orlando State of the Market event

Forde was a keynote speaker at Bisnow's Orlando State of the Market event on May 16, where he touted the Magic's plans for a $200M mixed-use entertainment complex next to Amway Center that is slated to include a hotel, apartments, office space, and retail and restaurant space, which Forde said was especially critical to Downtown Orlando.

“In essence, it's the bars and restaurants that are going to drive the economic impact on downtown,” he said.

He also highlighted why e-sports will be a big factor in the Magic's future growth. Last year, the team announced that it formed an official NBA franchise for a team to compete on the Visual Games video game NBA2K. Forde said at first he did not understand the concept.

“So let me get this straight, we're going to expect other people to watch someone play a video game?” Forde said. Then he admitted to watching the Food Network, yet never cooking himself. “There's your analogy. People watching other people game just like the Food Network or HGTV."

And Forde said the metrics are there. For instance: In August, the Call of Duty World League championship game will be hosted in Orlando, a sort of Super Bowl for the first-person shooter video game by Activision. He said Orlando expects there to be 14,000 people over four days for the event, 60% of whom do not live in Florida. That is not even counting the 25 million people projected to watch the games live on streaming services.