The Orlando Magic has been the only game in town for the city of Orlando since 1989. They began their play at the Orlando Arena, a brand new downtown building built for them that held about 17,000 screaming fans.
The old arena was a great place to catch a game. When it was new, it was spectacular. Most of us fans back then had never been to an NBA game until our first game at the O-rena. To us, this place was huge.
But after a couple of decades past, the Magic decided they needed more corporate friendly amenities if they wanted to attract high priced free agents and also keep their young players from leaving later. So the Amway Center was built just down the road.
I have had the pleasure of going to several Magic games in their new digs. I have had cheap tickets up in the third level and I have been near the court, which included passes into the corporate lounge underneath the seats. No matter where you sit, one thing stands out. Luxury.
The Amway Center still seats around 17,00 fans, but you could fit three or four of the old arena inside. At the old arena there was one concourse level. Fans in the lower bowl walked down to their seats while the fans in the upper level walked up from there. When all the fans were in the concourse such as halftime or during timeouts, it was elbow to elbow. Bathroom lines ran outside the restrooms and continued out on the concourse. There is none of this at Amway Center.
When parking in one of the parking garages around the Amway Center, there is no concern about being mugged or pick-pocketed. The entire area around the Amway Center is lined with police on every corner to assist in crossing the streets and the closer to the Amway Center one gets, the more it is lit up like Disney World.
Graphic via ripbangstudios
In the pre-game, there are many great restaurants and bars and shops near the arena to keep you busy before the game starts.
When entering the arena, escalators take you to your level. Once off the escalators, you can walk up to whatever concession stand you want. There are plenty of options, which mean short lines the majority of the time. One thing to watch out for though is some of the concession stands have rules such as they will only serve you if you have a child with you.
Bathrooms lines are no more as there are plenty of toilets to go around in the spacious facilities. Also, there are plenty of places for the kids to play where Magic staff watches over them as they run around and have fun.
The seats are some of the most comfortable in the NBA. These are seats one would expect to find in a nice movie theatre. They are padded with the cloth exterior and all have cup holders. The inside of the arena is huge compared to the old one. The midlevel has a lot of corporate boxes and also media areas where the journalist covering the game are set up with what looks like a mini-office. They can plug in their computers and post live comments while watching the action on the floor.
If one is fortunate enough to score some lower level courtside seats, expect to miss some of the game. That is because these seats come with an all you can eat pass in the five star restaurant when you walk through the same runnel the players take back to the locker room. There is plenty of whatever food you may want and a full bar with any drinks you could think of.
Many of these fans watch the first quarter on one of the many TVs in the restaurant while eating and drinking. They come out to watch the second quarter and then duck back in at halftime. After the game they go back in for deserts while waiting for traffic to thin out.
This is all outstanding except for one thing, the fans are so busy with all the cool stuff, they sometimes are not watching the game. The old Orlando Arena was loud and the fans were so close it almost appeared they were right on top of the players. It could be quite intimidating for opposing players.
The new digs are so upscale that at times it appears that the place is more like a theatre where people watch a performance, then clap politely when they are supposed. To scream loudly almost appears uncivilized.
Some of this could be because since moving to the new Amway Center, the team has not been very good, Perhaps when the team gets better the fans will be more into the game. Also, all of the new fancy stuff will become old news the more times people visit.
If you want to see the NBA in one of its nicest venues, then you want to check out an Orlando Magic game at the Amway Center. You will be thoroughly entertained.
Graphic via arenanetwork