5:34 PM EDT, October 1, 2010
While the celebration of the new place was going on up the street, the old place was eerily quiet.
It was sunny and green and clean outside, but dark and desolate and dusty inside. And nearly abandoned.
Except for a skeletal crew of workers, there was no sign of life in a building that had first given us music and laughter and indoor football and, yes, dunks, from Shaq to Dwight, for 21 years.
Amway Arena was officially left behind on Friday by Amway Center, The Next Generation.
I headed out to say goodbye to the old gal, taking a familiar route — I-4, Colonial and a left past Lake Dot — for the last time.
It was a path I had traveled to cover hundreds and hundreds of games since the Magic were born in 1989.
I don't know what the traffic was like for the grand opening at Amway Center, but this trip felt like a scene out of "I Am Legend," when Will Smith had the city to himself after a virus outbreak.
I turned toward Amway Arena, past empty pay booths and into my familiar parking area in record time.
I took a look at her, still holding up well, American flags flying next to a large picture of Jameer Nelson on the façade. L'il Jameer never looked so big, representing a remnant of the building's basketball past. His likeness will be coming down soon, of course, and maybe he has a house large enough now to hang it up in.
I walked through the players' entrance, next to the loading dock, wondering what was going on inside these days.
I came upon good 'ol Bart Gursky.
There was Bart, still holding fort in the security office. He has worked 15 years at Amway Arena, checking credentials and welcoming players and coaches. He wasn't transferred to the new building.
"They wanted me here, because I've been here so long and l know the place," Bart said. "It's nice and quiet. No stress."
Bart doesn't look 73 and still mows his own lawn. He does this gig three times a week. He was a major in the Army and worked a couple decades for Exxon before retiring.
I ask him if I can take one last look around. Thousands of people are checking out the new place; I'm on a one-man tour. I know my way around, but it's like visiting a haunted house — a little creepy. A sign before I walk into the arena floor reads: STAGE.
And there is a stage, left over, I guess, from some recent musical act. It's cool and dark, and where Shaq and Dwight once roamed on the parquet court, it has been stripped down to the cement.
I head back to the media room, down the hall, past a few remaining photographs on a wall next to the locker room of Nick Anderson and Darrell Armstrong and Howard. There's one of Shaq jumping center next to a 1995 NBA Finals logo, surely a collector's item.
I see signs that read, "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?," the arena having apparently held some local auditions for the show.
Like the cops say, there isn't much to see here.
If the city's creative village plans move forward, the arena one day will be demolished, completing its journey from basketball to wrecking ball.
The mammoth new place has all the latest technical marvels. But when it comes to building memories, it has a long, long ways to go to match the little ol' gal off Lake Dot.
Read Brian Schmitz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/Magicblog and e-mail him at email@example.com. Subscribe to our Magic newsletter at OrlandoSentinel.com/joinus.
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