Orlando's new Amway Center has been designed to wow Orlando Magic fans and concert-goers, make them show up early for an event and stay late — and open their wallets while they're there.
The $480 million building, which opens its doors Friday after two years of construction, has been loaded with features borrowed from other sports facilities around the country, making it the most modern arena in North America, at least for now.
Think of it as the prettier sister of the old Amway Arena a few blocks north.
Compared with the new version, the old arena was more of a "public assembly building," Magic president Alex Martins said.
"It's really an all-encompassing entertainment complex that is completely different from what people experienced at the old Amway Arena," Martins said.
The center's many amenities — including bars, restaurants, stores and even a play area for kids — are designed not only to keep fans happy but to improve the bottom line for the team and the city, which share some building revenue.
The Orlando Magic's "Fan Cost Index" — the price of a family of four's average tickets, food, drink, parking and merchandise as calculated by the industry publication Team Marketing Report — is $234. That's among the lowest in the NBA, which has a league average of $289.54.
With more options, Magic execs and city officials hope people will spend more.
For longtime fans, the difference should be apparent as soon as they enter the building.
In the Amway Arena, which will host its final event on Thursday, patrons climb steps to enter, then pack into a single concourse where they can walk up or down more stairs to find their seats. Fans are often jammed elbow-to-elbow on the concourse as they weave around long concession lines and make their way to their seats or crowded restrooms.
In the new Amway Center, most fans will enter at street level, where they'll find an 80-foot lobby atrium. Inside, they'll board express escalators and 18 elevators to take them to one of five concourses and seven levels.
Their seats will be a bit more spacious; there's more legroom and, depending on location, they're as much as 4 inches wider.
Premium ticket-holders will find even more comfort. There are 60 suites in the arena, including 32 posh "Founders" suites that lease for $295,000. There are other premium seating areas, such as "Legends" suites: for $13,500 per season, you get a wide, leather seat, access to an exclusive club area and a ticket to every event, whether it's a Magic game, concert or something else.
The lack of such premium seating in the current arena was the main reason Magic officials cited for wanting a new building. According to an analysis by Forbes magazine, the team generated less than $2 million a year from skyboxes in the old arena — about what center Dwight Howard earns in seven weeks — compared with $20 million for the typical NBA team.
That's partly because the skyboxes in the old building were at ceiling level, with perhaps the worst view of the court. In recent years, the team had trouble finding corporations interested in them.
In the Amway Center, the priciest suites are 19 rows above the floor, the second-lowest in the NBA.
But the stuff fans will see when they leave their seats may show the sharpest contrast with the old building.
"We're worried about keeping fans in their seats because there are so many amenities," Mayor Buddy Dyer joked. "The fan experience will be second to none for an arena in this country."
As patrons stroll through the city-owned arena, they'll notice the walls covered with artwork worth more than $1 million. There are 340 pieces of art, including more than 200 museum-quality photos, selected by the same consultant who picked out the art for Yankee Stadium.
There are also interactive exhibits with touch-screen kiosks featuring the history of the Magic and Orlando.
There are 227 food-and-drink concessions — many more than the old arena — and 40 percent have cooking equipment that was lacking outside a main kitchen at the old arena. That means there will be food choices beyond hotdogs, pizza and other items normally warmed under a heat lamp.
For children ages 2-12, there's Stuff's Magic Castle, named for the team mascot, featuring games and basketball hoops.
For adults, there are six bars, all but one open to all levels of ticket-holder. (The Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge, which players run by as they leave the locker room, admits only those with the priciest seats.)
Among them, the Budweiser Baseline Bar is open to the seating bowl with a nice view of the court, and Gentleman Jack's is found on a wide outdoor terrace overlooking the building's plaza.
The Sky Bar is an open-air rooftop lounge tucked behind the building's glass-and-steel spire, with a view of the downtown skyline from 100 feet up. It's been designed with a hip, nightclub feel, and city officials plan to keep it open four or five days a week until 2 a.m. — even when there are no events at the Amway Center.
Jernigan's Restaurant, an upscale eatery that seats about 300, is also open to all ticket-holders. It has several tiers and a view of the court. But you need a reservation, and those with season tickets and premium seats get first crack at reservations.
If the food doesn't get fans to reach for their wallets, there's always team shirts, caps and other merchandise.
You'll have to walk by the team store when you enter the building. And if the Magic can't talk you into spending, maybe your children can: There's even a shop with merchandise geared at kids.
Mark Schlueb can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5417.
Orlando's new arena
Coming Friday: The long road that led to the arena's construction.
More on Orlando Magic's Amway Arena, Amway Center
More on Orlando's Creative VillageGoodbye, arena — hello, Creative VillageCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun