Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with a disappointing first-round loss to Atlanta.
On October 10, a new season and a new building was opening. There was optimism and hope. There was even Stan Van Gundy wearing a tie. The volume was booming, the jumbo tron was large and in high definition, beer was flowing and you could actually move around the concourses.
Amway Center was a wonder. It took multiple trips just to see everything and enjoy a basketball game. There was a lot to take in at the Amway Center. You walk into the bowl and the scoreboard just blows you away. You walk through the concourses (actually walk through!) and just have choices and choices for food and amenities. Even outside the arena there are more things to do -- quick eat restaurants outside and a FanFest to occupy the walkers by before they enter the grand concourse.
It is easy to be impressed when things are pristine and new. But in its inaugural season, Amway Center definitely showed its lights.
The building was to be a financial boost for Orlando. The Amway Arena, despite its lovable nature, just could not produce the same type of financial opportunities as the opulent Amway Center could. The mid-level suites and just the vast breadth of options created a better overall arena experience for fans.
The Magic felt the benefits too. As Bob Vander Weide reported to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
"Being the 17th or 18th largest demographic market, we've really moved into some really nice growth. We're in the top 10 in a lot of things, but I guess the real answer is our revenues were up 42 percent from the old building. That is one boost.
"It allows you to compete, obviously, at the level where we spent a little more. Maybe more importantly, the aesthetics of that building and the amount of kudos that we've gotten that it's the best or at least one of the best buildings in the marketplace, that's also a tool for recruitment and all that. So the revenues are great. We've moved into the top 10 in a lot of areas. Our gross ticket-per-game opportunity jumped considerably: by about 30 percent.
"That building's allowed us to do it."
Amway Center has completely changed the Magic's positioning in the league. They are no longer playing in an old arena with few amenities for fans and seemingly even fewer for the players. They are now in a building that comfortably fits all the Magic fans and has just about every amenity the team could ask for -- including housing the team's offices and practice facility.
We have no idea how helpful that has been. Even the visitor's locker room is spacious. Or relatively so. And the Magic's locker room might as well be a palace -- I distinctly remember during the Thanksgiving week game against the Heat that Stan Van Gundy took his brother Jeff through the locker room and Jeff looked around and just said, "Wow."
The Magic finished ninth in attendance this year after finishing 17th last year and 18th in 2009. Orlando has a sellout streak that dates back to 2009. You can already see what a bump the new building was just for getting people through the turnstiles.
"When you move out of a small building that's got great volume and it feels like home, you're always worried when you jump to something new that it doesn't feel cold and not 'you,'" Vander Weide said. "I think the beauty of that building is that it's certainly 'us.' We know it produces the revenue that we needed to be competitive. I think it added some charm to what the players see every day: a great practice facility, workout room, incredible locker room and an in-arena experience that for the fans and the playoffs, there's just none better."
Even the worries that the building would be too quiet seemed to go away once the Playoffs came around. You could feel the energy in Games One and Five from the crowd.
Amway Center is still trying to feel like home to us long-time fans. But there is no doubt that Amway Center performed very admirably in its first season. It should only help the franchise from here on out.
Photo via DayLife.com.