SBJ/Nov. 8-14, 2010/This Week's Issue
Published November 8, 2010
Tip-off is one hour away for the first regular-season game at Amway Center, new home of the Orlando Magic, and Jernigan’s fine-dining restaurant is humming with activity. Same goes for the Budweiser Baseline Bar as fans jockey for position to get a view of the court in the lower bowl’s south end.
If it were another NBA market, destinations this nice in locations this good might be restricted to premium-seat holders. Add to that list Gentleman Jack Terrace, the outdoor bar where others grab a drink and mingle on an unusually warm central Florida day in late October.
In Orlando, those three locations are open to anybody, whether they’re holding a $5 ticket at the top of the upper deck or paying $295,000 a year for one of the biggest suites in the building.
Seven of the facility’s 10 areas tied to food and drink destinations are what team executives describe as “inclusive, not exclusive.” It’s a design principle the Magic and the city of Orlando, the arena’s owner and operator, carried throughout the project.
“It was never a [city] mandate,” Magic President Alex Martins said of the $480 million arena, two-thirds of which was financed with public money. “During the approval process many citizens stated that they thought these new buildings were elitist, and we wanted to dispel that misperception in a significant way.”
In doing so, project officials went one step further and improved the design of some of those premium-style spaces, making them more inviting by providing a view of the floor and keeping the fan’s connection to the game. Jernigan’s 250 tiered seats, for example, all face the floor.
Providing a gourmet meal experience to anyone making a reservation for Jernigan’s “has pushed our per caps up tremendously,” Martins said. “We have had fans reserve a table, buy dinner and watch a good portion of the game up there.”
Levy Restaurants operates the eatery.
Amway Center’s upgrades extend to the terrazzo floors on both lower and upper concourses and a portion of the event level outside the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge and the Magic’s locker room.
Project officials took advantage of favorable market prices for buying terrazzo and saved 30 percent compared with non-recessionary conditions, said Robert Rayborn, construction executive with Turner Construction, the arena’s program manager.
“In some buildings, you can always tell when they start running out of money,” said Allen Johnson, Amway Center’s executive director, who toured more than 20 NBA arenas himself. “The higher up you go, the less amenities you get with concrete floors and plastic seats in the upper bowl.
“We didn’t do that, and it’s one thing I’m really proud of.”
Up top in Orlando, the Ozone Bar in the south end gives upper-deck ticket holders room to stretch their legs, grab a cold beer and take in a bird’s-eye view of the arena’s unique center-hung scoreboard.
The board’s 18 video panels, all 6-millimeter technology, enable the Magic to project one consistent image from top to bottom on the 42-foot-high structure, the NBA’s tallest video board.
The image delivers quite a punch visually when the Magic’s game presentation crew keys in video of the team’s superstar center, Dwight Howard, coming straight at you and throwing down a thunderous dunk. The team held off on activating that feature until the first regular-season game to provide an extra wow factor, Martins said.
The arena’s digital menu boards are another piece of new technology that stands out. Harris Corp., a company best known for its high-tech military work, delivered an Internet protocol television system with eye-catching video that makes it easy for fans to make selections at the concession stand.
The Magic designed the menu screens in-house and the displays of specific brands have a cleaner look than traditional menu boards.
“Research will tell you when people have the opportunity to see the brand as opposed to [reading the word] ‘beer,’ they are more inclined to spend,” Martins said. “Our signs also show a domestic aluminum bottle. A lot of people like those bottles as opposed to tap beer. It’s a huge marketing tool.”