New arena puts Orlando Magic, city on new playing field
ORLANDO - The list of attractions that make Orlando one of the leading tourism sites in the world is lengthy. There are numerous amusement parks, hotels with various styles and themes for any occasion, and many other options for family and adult entertainment. Now the city has also raised the stakes as a sports destination by beginning to upgrade its sports facilities, starting with the home of its most prized team, the NBA's Orlando Magic, while simultaneously creating a state-of-the-art concert venue. On Oct. 1, the city and Magic organization officially opened its new $380 million dollar building, the Amway Center. The 875,000 square foot facility, which is nearly triple the size of the team's former playing facility, the Amway Arena (367,000 square feet)."It's a new era for Magic basketball, there's no doubt about it," team president Alex Martins said. "When you talk about the ability to recruit the top free agents in the NBA and the ability to compete at the highest level of our league, to have the most modern facilities is definitely a major contributor, a major asset." "I think the general consensus is this event center is the best in the country," Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer said. "The (Los Angeles) Staples Center and the (American Airlines Center) in Dallas used to be the standard." The Amway Center can seat more than 20,000 people including 60 suites, 68 loge boxes and 1,400 club seats. The Amway Arena's capacity was 17,500. The building, funded primarily by the Magic, features 1,100 digital monitors, including the tallest high-definition video board in an NBA venue. According to the organization, the scoreboard will be the first in the world to use high-resolution, 6 mm surface mount LED pixel technology. The building is one part of the city's $1.1 billion public building projects that includes a performing arts center and renovating the Florida Citrus Bowl. The Magic contributed $150 million to the project, with $50 million going towards the Amway Center. "We're confident we can compete for any event hosted at an arena," Dyer said. That could impact the Bay Area, particularly the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Over the past few years, Tampa has been awarded bids to host some of the top indoor sporting events, including the NCAA women's basketball Final Four, the NCAA women's volleyball finals and NCAA men's basketball tournament regional games. "It's going to be a nice NBA building and we certainly wish them the best of luck with the opening," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "Our total package of unmatched big event experience, a state-of-the-art arena with great hotels and convention center within walking distance, along with the significant revenue potential of the total number of seats we have to offer, has us positioned well for many years to come." In 2012, Orlando will host the NBA All-Star Game. It's the first national event that will showcase the new arena as a world class venue. "As far as the building itself, we've had everything in this city to be able to attract any major event, in term of hotels, the airport, transportation, we just haven't had the building to attract those major events," said Magic president Alex Martins. "We weren't able to accommodate the NCAA and the NBA for an All-Star Game and concerts, et cetera. "Now we have the building. You put the building together with the greatest hospitality and tourism infrastructure in the world and the possibilities in terms of the type of events that can come here are endless." Martins and Dyer said the All-Star Game and related events alone could potentially generate $100 million for the area. "I think with our partners in the city, we've built the best NBA facility in North America," Martins said. "That's what we do," Dyer said. "That's what we're in the business of, hosting the world."
Nick Williams can be reached at (813) 259-7851