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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Home of the Orlando Magic, the Amway Center is a beautiful palace of an arena in central Orlando literally yards from I-4. Walking up Church Street and into the arena concourse, you’ll be graced by one of the nicest venues in the NBA. Opened in 2010 as part of a plan to revitalize downtown Orlando, the Amway Center is currently the crown jewel of the project (although the upgrades to the nearby Citrus Bowl have stalled for the immediate future). Spacious, bright and colorful are all words best used to describe a night at the Amway Center.
The Magic became an NBA franchise in 1989, and spent most of their history housed in Amway Arena that resided less than a mile north of the current Amway Center. The current Amway Center is also home to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL and hosted the NBA All-Star game in 2012.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Amway Center offers a pretty impressive selection of concession options located all around the arena. Because of the sheer volume of options, lines at the concessions tend to be short, so you won't miss much of the action. Beer is on tap almost everywhere, from individual brewery stands to the standard concession spots. Prices are fair, if not just a bit high for standard rates, although there are so many options you'll get quite a bit of variation. Most of the meal item prices you can expect to find will be between the $9 and $15 range, with specialty foods falling on the upper end.
As far as selection, there's a lot to choose from. There's standard concession for normal stadium fare, Papa John's pizza, The Carvery for turkey and beef brisket, Seafood Grill, Sear and Sizzle for angus burgers, Big Blue Taco, Slam Dunk specialty hot dogs, Glo Bowl noodles and on and on. You'll definitely be able to find something to eat here for even the most selective palette. Some of the cooler features are the Baseline Bar, where you can grab a drink and watch the game from the bar, and the O-Zone, where you can grab a drink and sit at a table in the upper deck between the large digital columns.
Once you get past all the frills and shine of the concourse and arena itself, you'll settle into a pretty average NBA experience. First off, to give credit where credit is due, there's not a bad seat in the house both for viewing pleasure and overall comfort. The seats are extremely soft and legroom is spacious. Views are all great, even from the upper deck. If you're more of a "get up and walk the stadium" person like I am, the O-Zone or Baseline Bar are great places to watch the game, as well.
As far as fan experience, it's pretty typical. Fans aren't particularly loud (in fact, a large section of visiting Hawks fans often were louder than the Magic fans during the game I attended), entertainment is pretty standard NBA options and Stuff (the team mascot) doesn't get that involved beyond the initial entrance from the O-Zone. A strange annoyance of note is the consistent flashing lighting from the rafters. Even as play goes on, the bright lights from the rafters continuously flash.
If you're traveling to see a basketball game, you couldn't ask for a better destination city to fill your time with worthwhile activities. In the immediate vicinity of the Amway Center is the Church Street area. There are more than a few downtown bars and restaurants immediately outside the arena and just across I-4. The Hungry Buffalo and Church Street Tavern are great places to grab a pre- or post-game drink.
If you're in town for the longer haul, there are some pretty obvious tourist attractions just down I-4. Whether it's Sea World, Universal or Disney that draws you, there's plenty for everyone. My personal favorite for the adult side of the trip is a day exploring the countries at Epcot and sampling the food and drink, but if you can't find family or adult options in the area, then it's really a lost cause.
Hotels are also easy to find in the area, and prices in Orlando are pretty reasonable. There's also a Westin at the center of the Church Street attractions just across I-4 from the Amway Center if you're willing to spend a bit for location and want to avoid the I-4 traffic hang-ups from Disney.
The crowd at the Magic games seems to be pretty laid back (not necessarily in a positive way). I've heard they sell out often despite their poor showings in recent years, but on the occasion I was in attendance, it was nowhere near full. As far as volume, it's not really there at all. It's more of a feet up on the seats, hang out at the beautiful bars type of crowd. They cheer appropriately at big plays, but the overall noise level isn't there. In fact, at the game I attended there was a section of visiting Hawks fans that were providing most of the noise in support of their team. Maybe there are just so many amenities to enjoy at Amway or maybe it's the team's poor performance of late, but the fans seem content to just sit back and enjoy the arena.
The Amway Center couldn't be any more centrally located, as it's only feet from I-4 in central Orlando. There are numerous parking garages in the area, and if you're willing to walk a few blocks, there's even some for free. The walk feels safe and easy to get to the arena, and entry from Church Street is simple and fast-moving. The only potential challenge when heading to the arena is I-4 itself. If you aren't staying downtown you should definitely plan time accordingly, as I-4 can be one of the busiest interstates you'll find. Coming from the south means an almost permanent Disney traffic jam, and the northern approach can get risky during rush hour.
The concourse itself is wide, bright and easy to navigate. To reach any seating, you'll need to take escalators or elevators from the main entrance on Church Street, but it's not difficult to find. Aisles are wide and can be easily navigated. Overall navigation of the Amway Center itself couldn't be easier, so it is definitely worthy of points here.
This is a bit of a mixed bag depending on what you're looking for in an NBA experience. The arena itself is top of the line and is more than worth the trip. If you're going to check a stadium off the bucket list or on a social outing with friends, the Amway Center is a must. If you're going for an awesome game day experience and the thrill of the event, you're likely to be a bit disappointed. The enthusiasm and adrenaline rush of a major sports event just isn't there, mostly because of the pedestrian approach of the fan base.
Pricing is fair, if not a bit on the high end. Tickets even for a game nowhere near sold out ran at least $30 for upper deck and over $60 for lower bowl seats. There are definitely basketball arenas more fairly priced than that, so the assumption is you're paying for all the amenities the Amway Center offers. Food prices range on the ever-so-slightly high end between $9 and $15, so again the assumption is you're paying for the wide variety and convenience of the offerings. All of that being said, if you're gauging pricing by the quality of the venue then you're definitely getting what you've paid for.
Huge bonus points for the ridiculously cool 'Ronas & 'Ritas open air bar that offers a great view of the city from comfortable seating on the side of the arena. Bonus points also for the Budweiser Baseline Bar and O-Zone. When you combine all of those, you have a really cool venue for a social evening at a basketball game. You could actually pub crawl in this arena. More bonus points are given for the seamless blend into the immediate neighborhood. Overall, it's a very cool place to just hang out before and after the game.
Member Review by StPeteRays
Orlando's official motto is "The City Beautiful," so with that type of billing emblazoned on City Hall, there's a certain expectation level that you would assume needs to be achieved. From the meticulously maintained Walt Disney World complex, which is actually in nearby Lake Buena Vista, to International Drive, almost everything seems to fit that billing, no matter how artificial. It's as though nothing less than perfection is allowed within metro Orlando, and for a city trying to bill itself as the family-friendly version of Las Vegas, I wouldn't expect any less.
Located about 8 blocks north of the new home, the old Amway Arena was the home of the Orlando Magic for the first 20 years of the franchise's existence and saw the near-coronation of the expansion team twice: 1995 and 2009, both years having made the NBA Finals. Great players have made their way through those doors - Shaq, Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, and Patrick Ewing, amongst numerous others - so, the closing of the Amway Arena was bittersweet for Magic fans. Does the successor building, having just opened on October 1, 2010, with all its flash and glamour, live up to being the worthy successor to "The O-Rena"?
Member Review by JimFolsom on Jan 24, 2013
The Orlando Magic have been playing in the NBA since November of 1989. Their original home was known as the Orlando Arena and was built in 1988 for the new expansion team. I was a charter season ticket holder for the new team, so I was there when they opened up the new arena. The Magic’s first game was also my first NBA game. So when I went to that first game and walked inside, it was awesome. Everything was so big and beautiful. Chairs were new. Toilets were new. Sinks were new. The floor was new. And it was huge. I walked inside and stopped before going to find my seat and just looked around. You could almost hear the angel choir singing in the background, “AAAHH”!
My only basketball experiences up until then were attending high school games. So this place was amazing. It had a giant scoreboard with a video screen hanging over the court. It had the concourse level with all the food stands and beer stands. It had a shop where you could buy Magic gear. It was awesome. So when the Magic built a new arena, I was skeptical. What’s wrong with the one you have? It’s a great place to watch a game. But the new arena? WOW! Little did we know at the time, but a concourse level doesn’t have to be elbow to elbow all the way across. And long lines at the bathrooms are not just something that you have to put up with at a game. Who knew?
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Mar 31, 2014
Despite a lackadaisical crowd and almost no atmosphere through the first 3 quarters, ushers are constantly checking tickets, particularly down low, even later on in the affair. You would think you would want more fans and less empty seats.
The Amway Center is very well-designed, shiny and new, but the team is terrible and the fans disengaged, leading to a dichotomous experience, where the surroundings do not match the experience. It almost seemed like a pre-season game.
The high point might be the party plaza outside, where one tent was displaying live snakes and baby alligators that you could hold. Inside though, no party at all.
Member Review by HeatFan11 on Apr 18, 2014
Before I visited the other NBA arena in Florida, this was the best place I have been to. Since I am a Central Florida resident, I have been to 5 games. Unfortunately, the team isn't even close to competive and the atmosphere shows. It makes sense because all the teams I saw were mediocre teams (Pelicans, Celtics, Pistons, 76ers, Cavaliers). It also adds that they were spanked the last time I visited (119-98, Cavaliers). But take away the awfulness of the team and this place is a gem of Orlando. Church Street is gorgeous when you are walking to the stadium. It is worth visiting. And if the team improves, the Magic in the place will be back where it once was.
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