First off, the new Amway Center in downtown Orlando is just that, a Center. It is so much more than an arena has ever been.
With sporting amenities for every ticket-holder and shopping and enjoyment on non-event days, the Away Center has risen up in Orlando in a little over two years.
"This building went up so much better and faster than many others," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, "And for it to happen through our recent financial crisis is a testament to the strength of this city." The city of Orlando voted 5-2 to begin construction on this stadium, as well as renovate other area amenities, on July 26, 2007. Groundbreaking for the yet-to-be-named Amway Center started on July 25, 2008. It received it's name on August 5 of last year.
Nearly $100 million of the $380 million dollar facility was paid for by Orlando native businesses, over 30 percent of the contracts on the building, exceeding the 24 percent benchmark set before the building began by the city. Of those 30 percent, many of the firms utilized were either minority or female owned companies, many of whom may not have survived the recession had it not been for their work on the Amway Center.
"This stadium, this facility, was built by Orlando residents, to be enjoyed by Orlando residents," Orlando Magic President and COO Alex Martins proclaimed at the ribbon cutting ceremony this morning. "People from Orlando can now spend their money here, giving back to our economy rather than go elsewhere to see the concerts and shows they want to be at. This venue will attract so much more for this city."
Another great aspect of the Center is it's environmentally friendly design, so much so that it is on track to be the first professional arena constructed to be LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). The construction elements in place must meet strict protocol to even be considered for LEED certification, and the new Amway Center is doing a part to better the environment.
"We are definitely LEED-Silver certified, and hope to be Gold by the time the Amway Center opens," remarked Dyer. The Orlando Mayor made sure to point out such features as the giant cistern on the back dock, which catches all the rainwater from the roof and recycles it to irrigate the Center and surrounding areas. The facility is also equipped with low-flow plumbing, water-chilled air conditioning, and special window treatments to minimize daytime heat gain, while also expelling night-time release in the urban area.
All of these things, however, may be considered useless to a ticket-goer if the basic functions of a game experience are ruined. The Magic organization was happy to make sure thier big partners made their new home people-friendly. Almost 20 bathrooms dot the canvas of the eight-level building, many more than the old Amway Arena, addressing a large problem that location had during every event.
At three times the size of the old arena, the Amway Center also added tons of new point-of-sale areas, 227 to be exact, in both concessions and merchandise boutiques, some of which are even open on off-days.
"What we really wanted to create," remarked Martins, "was an experience that everyone could enjoy. We had so many amenities in the old arena that catered to just the high-end and VIP ticket holders, but now every ticket will have access to all areas."
Those areas include many bars. The Budweiser Baseline Bar, which overlooks the court itself, Sky Bar, located 100 feet above the ground level and has a lounge-type feel to it, and the Gentleman Jack Bar, which is situated right behind the token 'spire' that rises 180-feet above the downtown Orlando skyline.
All of these outdoor areas take advantage of the tremendous Florida weather; even better, because of the LEED-Certification, they are all smoke-free. No longer will non-smokers be afraid to grab some fresh air from the clouds of nicotine that inhabit many arena patio areas. In fact, no tobacco is to be used within 25-feet of the Amway Center.
In addition, restaurants like the aptly-named Jernigan's (after Orlando founder Aaron Jernigan, which was the city's name prior to Orlando,), have full service kitchens offering amazing samplings that can change nightly depending on the theme of the event in the arena that night. The Magic organization purchased many antique pieces from around downtown Orlando that now line the hallways and add ambiance to the restaurant, which offers delicacies such as tuna tartar and "Buddy Dyer Seafood Salad."
The kitchens in the Amway Center are unique because there are around 60 of them. "This allows the food to be made at the various outlets, instead of made in the back and hot-boxed out to the concourse like before," said head-chef John Nicely. "Food won't be sweating it out in boxes and getting ruined by just sitting there anymore. We are no longer held behind a barrier of hot-dogs and popcorn."
The Amway Center also has 17 hospitality spaces, along with 32 suites and numerous all-inclusive zones that may be leased out on a per-game and per-season basis. "Renting these spaces out for a year grants the holder to tickets to every event that comes through the doors," said Martins. "These areas will be great for corporations." There is also a Loge-area that offers suite-like seating, but on a smaller and cheaper scale.
"This truly is a great day for Central Florida," added Mayor Dyer. "I have to thank everyone for all the effort put forth in the time and work it took to make this facility the fixture it will be for years to come. It was not built as a 20-year arena; it was built as a 50-year arena."
Martins also added, "We want this facility to not only serve the community, but to reflect the values of the community as well."
The Amway Center has room for 20,000 spectators, which will be utilized to attract larger events such as the NCAA tournament. The NBA-record video board is 42 feet high, weighs in at 80,000 pounds, and contains 9,000,000 LED lights to create quite a brilliant display.
The LEED-Certified Center will save 800,000 gallons of water a year thanks to it's collection and efficiency procedures, while also saving about $750,000 in energy costs, a cut of 24 percent of compliance for new buildings.
The Magic offer several price points for the new Amway Center and Mayor Dyer proclaims that they are still "...as motivated as ever to offer enjoyment to Central Florida through affordable options." That said, the Magic will have 600 $5 tickets for the first time in history and 7,000 tickets priced at $25 or less (10,000 seats, more than half of the 18,000 seats available during a Magic game, will be $50 dollars or less).
Almost 1,200 video monitors swarm the Amway Center and every one of them can be controlled separately; if the Magic want each screen to have something different on it, no problem.
The five concourses in the new home will feature 30 foot wide walkways, a large upgrade from the 19 foot wide, single concourse at the old arena.
All together the Amway Center has already brought in such names as Bon Jovi, Lady GaGa, and the 2011 NBA All-Star game. The new event center will be the primary place to visit in downtown Orlando and should do a great job in helping to rebuild and renovate the Church Street and Parramore surrounding areas, offering jobs and a cleaner, better Orlando for all of it's patrons.