Everyone who has been to the Amway Center has put their two cents in about the new building. And everyone has glowing praise for the amenities inside the glossy new building. I finally got my chance to attend my first game in the Magic's new home and, like everyone else, I have one word to say:
The moment you step in the bowl the scoreboard strikes you. All the press materials hailed it as the largest indoor scoreboard in the country and it certainly is a prominent feature of the building. It is impossible not to notice. And, I have to agree with my sister here, it is almost too high def.
It is still the preseason, so not all the bells and whistles are quite working yet. I am still looking forward to opening night to see the pyrotechnic show Orlando has planned for us. But the stat screens were on and off throughout the night and the upper center board did not really do much. Still looking for a purpose for it. But that is all nitpicking.
Any piece of information you could want about the game, you will be able to get from the scoreboard or from the banners ringing the bowl. There is plenty to get for sure. Although, I was still craning my neck above the baselines trying to see the stat boards in the location they used to be in Amway Arena.
As far as the concourses, they are wide. Even at halftime, it was relatively easy to walk around and get where I needed to go. There is pretty much any type of food you want -- including Papa John's Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery not mention a taco station, usual stadium fare and even gluten-free potato chips. Yum.
Continuing along the concourses, the displays are also very nice and informative. The team collected a nice array of newspaper clippings, memorabilia and goodies from the team's past for the display on the Orlando Magic. Much the same is on the other side of the arena for the city of Orlando.
Those public displays are very nice and also include tables so you can actually sit down and eat. Crazy, I know.
As far as food prices, they are stadium prices. What are you going to do? A good deal though is a bottomless fountain drink deal for $6.25. It is a pretty sizeable drink and you get what you pay for (at stadium prices) with one refill.
The seats are also very very comfortable and, at least in the lower bowl, comes with cup holders. Big plus for keeping the stadium clean -- a constant problem at the Amway Arena.
I did not get a chance to work my way into all of the features of the arena. But the one thing I will say, is this stadium does a much better job engaging downtown than Amway Arena did. The Sky Terrace has a gorgeous view of downtown Orlando and during pregame Magic TV (the gigantic scoreboard) had a look outside at I-4 and downtown Orlando. Engaging the city was a big goal of the new arena and I would say it was well done.
Now my very few complaints (buried after the jump):
The Magic touted the artwork of the Amway Center throughout the whole building project. In fact, there was a requirement from the city that Orlando have a certain amount of artwork inside the building. The artwork is very very neat. There is a beautiful painting of the two Finals teams and great sketches of some of the team's greatest players (and Jeff Turner). There are some very neat collages of the team using its tickets, programs, schedules, you name it.
The only problem is, a lot of it is hidden from the general public's view. A lot of these pieces of art, most of which local artists created, are on the suite level. Hard to argue these artworks fit the public display of art requirement of the new building.
Now, you may say, "Where else would you put them?" To which I say, "Good point." But for something the team touted so much during tours of the building, it is a relatively minor thing for the everyday fan. It would be very nice if you could somehow make the art available to the general public.
But let's not make any mistake. This building was built for the fans in the suites with concessions and considerations for the normal fan. The Magic did a very good job ensuring the normal fan can make it affordably to a game. It is the big criticism of this building -- public money being used to finance a private building -- and I think the placement of the artwork away from the general public feeds into that criticism.
My next criticism is the scoreboard is really really big. It dwarfs the court. It is a good thing, but a bad thing too.
There is also so much to do and check out in the new arena that it will distract from watching the game. Stan Van Gundy was right to say, check out the arena in the preseason. There is a lot to do, I am honestly a little worried about filling the game bowl. It is tough to say what the atmosphere will be like until the games start counting. People generally did not care about the result Saturday night. It was about checking out the new arena.
The building is cavernous and lacks some of the intimacy of the old arena. But that is how these new arenas are built. I am very curious to see how loud it can get. Amway Arena could get LOUD when it was full.
Overall, Amway Center is an incredible building and will grow on Magic fans as its new home. There is plenty to do, eat and enjoy inside the building. It will be a great place to watch basketball.