SBJ/June 15 - 21, 1998/No Topic Name

Orlando Magic, hospital launch joint venture

Consider Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos a guinea pig for professional sports.

In March, DeVos and his RDV Sports group began a joint venture with Florida Hospital that could prove to be the wave of the sports medicine future.

The venture, called RDV Sportsplex, is a $50 million, 365,000-square-foot project on 21 acres featuring two ice rinks, the training centers for the NBA's Orlando Magic and the International Hockey League's Or-lando Solar Bears, a health club and a medical wing run by Florida Hospital that offers radiology, orthopedic and rehabilitation services. RDV owns 60 percent of the venture and Florida Hospital 40 percent.

The idea behind the joint venture — the first of its kind in professional sports — is to leverage the prestige of a professional sports team with the lucrative business of sports medicine. The goal is to build a profitable health-care franchise for both the Magic and Florida Hospital while providing top care to the public.

Though the Orlando Magic training headquarters is off-limits to the public, it's part of the complex, giving the project a strong marketing tool. When Joe Six-Pack blows out a knee playing city league basketball, will he want to be treated at just another doctor's office, or at the same place as Penny Hardaway?

The same holds true for the health club, the Magic Athletic Club, where for a $350 initiation fee and $65 a month, members of the public can say they share a gym with professional athletes. The facility's motto: "Play Like a Pro."

The venture counters professional sports teams' traditional attitudes toward the public, which border on paranoia. But attitudes can change quickly if there's money to be made.

"I think everybody in sports is looking at what's going on in Orlando," said Stan Kasten, president of the Atlanta Hawks. "What they're doing is very interesting, and we're taking a wait-and-see attitude."

So are large health-care companies.

Officials at HealthSouth, the Birming-ham, Ala.-based health-care company that specializes in sports medicine service, said that while the company isn't nearing any similar ventures as Orlando, it is watching closely.

"It's intriguing, and we always want to follow the trends," said Vince Thompson, vice president of communications for HealthSouth. "Wherever people are hurt is where we want to be present."

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