The Amway Center's first year was a resounding success by just about every measure. Well, maybe except for the results of the basketball team.
"So let me repeat this great news: The Amway Center finished the year in the black," venues director Allen Johnson wrote in memo to Mayor Buddy Dyer and commissioners.
The Amway Center was a massive investment from the city and county. It was a bold statement about what Mayor Buddy Dyer and then-County Mayor Richard Crotty believed Orlando and Orange County could be. The remainder of events center package is still being built. The Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center is preparing to break ground it seems in downtown Orlando, although the Florida Citrus Bowl renovation still seems lightyears away.
Still, the Amway Center seemed to be the biggest risk. It was the priciest of the three events centers and seemingly served the fewest people. The Magic can only fill 41 home dates for regular season games and the money-making concerts and events the Amway Center can host seem to be off in the distance as the arena makes a name for itself.
Yet, from the moment the Amway Center opened its doors, it seemed to wow visitors. It was a complete 180 from the cramped and close-quartered Amway Arena. The amenities were sublime too. Almost too sublime as everyone seemed preoccupied with them at the half and struggled to get back to their seats on time to start the third quarter.
The scoreboard overwhelms you when you step into the main bowl. It is a gorgeous building and everything from the concourses to the player locker rooms are probably the best in the NBA now. That should be enough to entice free agents and possibly keep Rich DeVos spending, even in the new NBA world. And that was always the purpose of the arena, to be a cash cow for DeVos and the franchise. The team was hemmoraghing cash in the old building. That has certainly changed.
Anything the city could get is absolute gravy. That is how the city felt too. Johnson reported to the mayor and commissioners that the Amway Center netted an operating profit of $998,913 and a bottom-line profit of $584,536. That is not a ton of money, but it is still pretty good according to city officials.
"Anything above zero is good," chief financial officer Rebecca Sutton said. "We're not trying to make money on the Amway Center. The city is not a business. Our main goal is to have a good, well-run facility that provides an enjoyable experience for our visitors."
There were some special one-time deals that came with the first year in the new building. Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel did a great job breaking down where Amway Center's profits came from and what the arena might be able to do to repeat it.
The Magic are still paying rent, but they are the biggest tenant at the Amway Center and their 41 home dates are looking pretty empty right now. Orlando also got a one-time TicketMaster signing bonus as part of its exclusive deal with TicketMaster to sell tickets for Amway Center events. It makes it seem less likely Amway Center will break even this year.
Still, the fact Amway Center was able to turn a profit in its first year has to say something about the job the Magic, the city and the county did building this thing, right? Fans seemed to enjoy it and it was a net gain for the city during its first year.
Orlando can only hope year two can survive the lockout and continue bringing events and foot traffic to downtown orlando.