Amway Arena: Good, But Not Magical

Paul SwaneySenior Analyst IFebruary 28, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic drives against Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Amway Arena on February 21, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images


Review originally published on

If you attend an Orlando Magic game at Amway Arena, you can expect the unexpected.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of Orlando, I think of Disney World.  As I extrapolate from there, I imagine a family-friendly environment, and a tame crowd filled with retirees and tourists.

It turns out that I was wrong about a lot of presumptions about the experience of attending a Magic game.  Walking away, I realized that it is a fun place to see a game, but there are some important tips that you need to know.

FANFARE Score: 24 (out of 35)

Food & Beverage: 4

Who knew that Orlando would offer up such an ethnic food variety at a basketball game? I was delighted to find a jerk stand outside section 107 which offered, among other things, either chicken or beef patty—make sure you ask for some extra jerk sauce—for only $3. I could have stayed there all day.

There was also a wide variety of Latin food, a chicken Caesar salad stand that looked fresh, as well as all the usual favorite sausages, popcorn, and nachos.  Beer was predictably priced, but there were plenty of mixed drinks to be had as well. A bottle of Budweiser will run you $6 up in the stands. I wish that soda was served in a souvenir cup, but overall, the food and beverage selection was very good.

Atmosphere: 4

It’s an important disclaimer that I attended when the Cavs were in town, so the atmosphere I experienced may not completely resemble the typical experience.  That being said, the arena was absolutely electric throughout the game, from player introduction all the way to the finish.

Some venues are loud, exciting, and create goose bumps for spectators.  Amway Arena just seems loud. Specifically I mean that to be a criticism of their sound system, which produces a muddled blast of chaotic energy. The unfortunate part is that it distracts from the brilliantly rowdy fans.  I hope that the Magic either pare back their infused sounds, or do an overhaul of the sound system in the arena.

Neighborhood: 4

About a mile away from Amway Arena is a great little section of downtown Orlando, filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs. I recommend parking your car in this area and getting a bite to eat at either Urban Flats or Hamburger Mary’s.

Urban Flats offers up flat breads with an assortment of toppings (essentially good pizza), and other delectable treats. Hamburger Mary’s has some of the best gourmet burgers around, and they brew their own beer to boot. Between these two establishments you can find several other establishments ranging from bar to fine dining.

If you’re just looking for a drink near the arena then Hoops Bar may be the spot for you.  It’s not a place that I plan to return to, but if you need to grab a beer, I suppose it will do. The place stinks of fermented meat, and while there were brave people eating there, I chose to abstain. A large beer in a plastic cup will run you $3.25.

Fans: 4

A definite high point of the visit to Amway Arena had to be the fans. Partially this was due to my low expectations, but once I moved past my incoming bias, I had to recognize that this group loved their team, and were also very knowledgeable. I found fans recognizing critical fouls before the scoreboard told them to care.

Access: 2

This was a major negative in the Amway Arena experience. There is only one shared concourse between the lower and upper levels, which creates an incredibly congested situation. This is especially true if you dare to use the restroom or grab a snack at halftime. With only four bathrooms, located in the corners of the concourse, there are incredibly long lines to get in and out of the bathrooms.

Do yourself a favor and leave early before halftime to go use the restroom, or wait until halftime is over.

Parking is reasonable, with prices ranging from five to eight dollars within blocks of the arena. I think it’s worth parking downtown—nine dollars—and enjoying the walk back downtown as others struggle through the post-game traffic.

Return on Investment: 4

With some great deals on food and parking, and a fairly priced ticket, there’s a lot to like about the experience at Amway Arena.  I would be interested to go back and see if the same energy I experienced is pervasive during a game against a lower level team.

Etc: 3

Special point for the overwhelming number of fans who turned out in Superman shirts after the small battle between Dwight Howard and Shaq over who should cal themselves Superman. An additional point goes out to the Central Florida sports Hall of Fame, although it was fairly underwhelming.

Final Thoughts:

Amway Arena was a pleasant surprise. I liked downtown Orlando more than I thought, but most of all, I was impressed with the level of excitement from the fans. As the only professional option in town, the fans get behind this team, and seem to appreciate the amount of success that the team has seen in its short time in the league.

Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey