Ups and Downs for Amway Center Opening

19 Oct

Orlando’s Amway Center’s inaugural week had its share of challenges, but fortunately these were outweighed by successes.

The Eagles were scheduled as the venue’s first concert on Oct. 8, but singer Don Henley suffered an illness, postponing the show until Oct. 26.

In addition, from a technological standpoint, because the building is ahead of its time, there were incompatibility issues with some shows’ production systems.

On a positive note, the Orlando Magic beat the New Orleans Hornets in the center’s first preseason National Basketball Association game last Sunday, winning 135-81.

Also, merchandising sales were double a typical preseason game and comparable to a playoff game.

“I don’t know if having the show postponed is a first for an arena grand opening, but I doubt many arena managers are having as much fun as I am,” said Allen Johnson, Amway Center’s executive director. “Overall, we had fewer snags than anticipated.”

The grand opening week at the start of this month included a series of free community events that showcased the venue, including a ceremonial ribbon cutting and Orlando Mayor Billy Dyer’s Annual State of Downtown Address that had 5,000 attendees, as well as an open house with complimentary food and entertainment, which attracted 50,000 people.

Filling in for the Eagles, ranchera musician Vicente Fernandez performed to a half house of 6,000 on Oct. 8.

“He is the most revered name in Hispanic music, and we have a very diverse community, so it was a fitting opening [to our concert season],” Johnson said.

A gala benefit for the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, featuring the Boston Pops with singer James Taylor, was held on Oct. 8 and 9.

In addition to Magic games, there will be approximately 170 events during Amway Center’s inaugural year.

Other scheduled performances include comedienne Chelsea Handler, Madea’s Big Happy Family with actor Tyler Perry and World Wrestling Entertainment’s RAW.

Experience the best view our city has to offer- 100 feet up at the top of the tower- and enjoy the open-air atmosphere of the Sky Bar. It presents the perfect destination to escape the postgame traffic and prolong the celebration.

The Amway Center also will play host to the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

The $380 million, 876,673-sq.-ft. venue is the most technologically advanced of its kind, the first sustainable building in the NBA and the only city-owned facility to house a major sports team.

The center seats 18,500 for Magic games, compared with 17,282 at the former facility. Up to 20,000 people can be accommodated for NBA All-Star games and NCAA basketball tournaments. There are 60 private suites, two bunker suites, two super suites, four party suites and 732 club seats.

Amway Center’s concessionaire, Orlando Food Service Partners, a joint venture with Levy Restaurants, is now able to offer twice as much variety than in the previous facility on two separate levels, as opposed to one. There are 22 concession stands or one concession for every 125 spectators. Each area has four digital menu boards that provide details on food and pricing.

“Unlike most facilities, we offer as many amenities to our cheap-seat ticket holders as we do for those who have premium seats,” Johnson said.

Many representatives from other area and out-of-state venues checked out the new Amway Center during its opening week.

“It is a spectacular building,” said Ron Spencer, director of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. “I’ve been in most newer facilities for a number of years, and it’s one of the best. I’m most impressed with the venue’s public places. Fans will have a wonderful experience.”

“The building is impressive, and the technology is beyond what we’ve seen in any facility right now,” said Michael LaPan, executive director of Florida’s Lakeland Center. “Europe has been ahead of us in terms of state-of-the-art venues, but this is definitely one of the world’s top five facilities.”

The consensus is that the grand opening successfully showcased Amway Center’s many attributes.

“This is a public/private partnership that came together and is working,” Johnson said. “The community has waited a long time for this venue, and their expectations have been met.” – Lisa White

Interviewed for this article:  Allen Johnson, (407) 440-7070; Michael LaPan, (863) 834-8133; Ron Spencer, (850) 487-1691



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