Orlando, Disney World Reportedly 'Clear Front-Runner' for NBA's Return Venue

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2020

FILE - In this Monday, March 16, 2020, file photo, the road to the entrance of Walt Disney World has few cars, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Two more unions have reached agreements with Walt Disney World over furloughs caused by the theme park resort's closure during the new coronavirus outbreak. The agreements reached late Friday, April 10, apply to security guards and workers involved in facilities and operations. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Orlando's Walt Disney World has reportedly emerged as a front-runner to host NBA games if the 2019-20 season resumes this summer.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Orlando has "gained significant seriousness" among cities considered, which also include Las Vegas. Disney World has been attractive to the NBA because it is private property that also has the facilities necessary to host the games and league personnel/players. 

"We are confident we'll be hosting the NBA in some fashion," a Disney source told reporter Keith Smith. "It may not be the entire league, but we believe the NBA will be here to at least finish part of their season. Still hurdles to cross, but we are preparing as if that is the case."

The NBA is yet to formalize a plan for a return, but there is momentum to finish the 2019-20 season. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported several superstars, highlighted by LeBron James and union president Chris Paul, convened last week and agreed to support the resumption of the season.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been steadfast in wanting to resume the season at some point while acknowledging the league will act at the advice of medical professionals. Charania reported May 12 that Silver wanted to make a decision within the next two to four weeks.

The NBA hopes to have players in training camp by mid-June and resume games by mid-July, according to Charania and Amick.

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Several sports leagues have begun implementing plans to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. The UFC and NASCAR resumed holding events this month, and the PGA Tour plans to come back in June. MLB and the NHL are in the planning stages of their own resumption of play but are yet to make any formal announcements.

Team sports are in a trickier position to return because they require contact with several individuals. While mixed martial arts is a contact sport, it is a one-on-one event. Golf and NASCAR require minimal contact with others.

The Disney plan would call for players, coaches and other essential game workers to be quarantined together in Orlando for the duration of the resumed season. Regular testing would be a requirement for all involved and is a major hurdle, given that some parts of the country are still without adequate coverage.