Amway Center is in its third NBA season and continues to draw rave reviews from the public and industry insiders.
Stadium Journey Magazine compiled a list of the best stadium experiences in professional sports for 2012 from a score calculated on a scale based on severl criteria including in-stadium experience, food and beverage, crowd atmosphere, the neighborhood of the stadium and return on investment.
These are all things Amway Center provides as the magazine ranked it 11th in all sports, coming in second in the NBA behind the Lakers' Staples Center. Amway Center received a rating of 4.7 out of 5 in the the magazine's rating. The top spot went to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Jim Dietrich of Stadium Journey Magazine wrote the review of the arena for the magazine and gave Amway Center perfect scores in a lot of areas. That includes some areas Amway Center sometimes get criticized for.
On the fans, Dietrich writes:
They never had to be told to cheer, were quick to criticize the referees, and made their supreme dissatisfaction with long-departed Grant Hill (who was paid over $10 million a year, but spent most of his Magic tenure on the bench with injuries) known in long strings of "Booooo!" with every point he made.
As I wandered the concourses, the vast majority were super-friendly and quick to strike up a quick conversation about the game, the Center, and Orlando as a whole. Overall, they were the most unique Florida sports fans I've ever had the pleasure of meeting; I wish the rest of the sports teams' fans in the Sunshine State would learn from them.
As you can tell, this review was written last year when Hill was still on the Suns and Dwight Howard was still on the team. But the glowing reviews of the fans and the atmosphere in the stadium are good things for a crowd that sometimes gets accused of being of the "wine and cheese variety."
Dietrich also gives glowing reviews for the amenities in the stadium including the O-Zone area with its mix for the young (Stuff's Playground) and the young adult (the O3 bar) and he gives a glowing review of the neighborhood, enjoying his walk down Church Street and his taste of Orlando nightlife.
His final thought on Amway Center reads like Alex Martins' sales pitch. Which is a good thing, I guess:
It's incredible to think how much a city that is known for its theme parks and other attractions is proving to the world that it can build great civic projects as well. It has set a new gold-standard in arena building that won't easily be matched in the near-future.
They could have set this in Ocala National Forest and I'd still want to go back; having such a high-class neighborhood surrounding it makes near-perfection that much better. I already long to go back for more --even if it means dealing with Orlando traffic.
It would be interesting to see his review of the atmosphere now that the stadium does not have its superstar. But there is no doubt that when fans are engaged, Amway Center can buzz with a great gameday atmosphere as well as any other stadium.
So give Amway Center another shiny trophy to hang in its trophy case.