It is safe to say Orlando has no clue what to expect when the Amway Center opens its doors for its first event on October 1 and for its first basketball game on October 10. The Amway Arena was hardly what you would call "state of the art" when it opened in 1989. The arena was somewhere between the going trend and a dinosaur.
Magic COO Alex Martins has assured both the public and fans, they are about to experience something they have never experienced as fans.
The in-arena restaurant, the in-arena team store -- Fan Attic, if you will -- and the overall amenities will be things that blow Orlando fans away. But they are also things that many fans in other NBA cities have enjoyed for several years now. The Amway Center will be the crown jewel of the NBA and a great centerpiece for the NBA All Star Game in 2012 and, hopefully, an NBA Finals in 2011.
A new building brings new amenities, but it also brings new costs (the toll levied on the city, the county and the taxpayers notwithstanding -- that is another issue entirely). Like what is inside the building, a lot of the things outside the building -- including pricing -- will be very new to Magic fans.
The days of topping ESPN's "Bang for Your Buck" list may be long gone with a new arena and its potential new revenue streams.
Most of the main sponsorships that will be attached to the main elements of the building have been filled -- Jack Daniels, Budweiser and Geico were the latest announcements -- and the fan experience will be quite different in the Amway Center from the Amway Arena.
One thing that will change, probably much to the chagrin of fans, is prices.
The Magic have long been one of the more affordable teams to go and see. This could be because of the old arena and the relatively cramped quarters inside Amway Arena. It could also be because the Magic have a tradition of being relatively mediocre and struggling for fans.
It is easy to recall seeing large patches of empty red seats in the 2000-2007 days where Orlando simply qualified for the postseason and bowed out. Really only three periods of time have seen consistent sell outs -- the inaugural year, the 1994-96 Finals runs and the present.
Perhaps in response to the sudden rise in demand for Magic tickets and the completion of the new arena, the team is introducing variable ticket pricing for the first time. This has been a growing trend throughout the NBA, beginning in Portland a few years ago.
The basic premise of variable pricing is to have the market determine how much tickets should cost. For instance a ticket that would have cost $20 in Amway Arena, would now cost $25 for the Thanksgiving Eve game against the Heat but only, say, $15 for the November 3 game against Minnesota.
The price of the ticket will be determined by the opponent, the day of the week and how well teams are playing.
On a purely economic basis, it is a good business decision. Why should you pay the same price to see the Nets as you do the Lakers?
I am sure this will still be a minor annoyance to Magic fans.
What is causing more of an uproar is the decision to double the price of parking immediately next to the arena. The cramped parking lot across the street from Amway Arena had a $10 price tag on it for game days. The parking lot connected directly to the Amway Center and the one across Church Street from it will cost you $20.
The price increase on its face is to make anyone mad. But they shouldn't be. To park in the parking lot beneath the American Airlines Arena in Miami, if I remember correctly, is $25 plus you have to have a special permit to park there. The surface lots around the stadium can cost you anywhere from $20-$30. Magic fans have been spoiled on this for a long time.
The point of the increased parking around the stadium is to encourage fans to park closer to downtown where the businesses will have a better chance of attracting fans to eat, shop, play, etc. The point of building the arena in Downtown Orlando was to help revitalize the area. The City of Orlando's decision to increase parking rates helps to accomplish that goal.
What does it mean to the fan preparing to go to the Amway Center? You might have to expect to pay a little more. It will be interesting to see fan reaction once games start up... or the team starts losing again.