Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with a disappointing first-round loss to Atlanta.
Amway Center was great. It really was. It did not mean there were not bumps in the road in its inaugural season.
I am not talking about the lights not coming back on during a preseason game. That seemed to be the only technical glitch.
But there were other problems with Amway Center. They had little to do with the building itself or the amenities within. Fans were extremely happy with the building and even the media and visiting teams were happy with their accomodations (more soft-serve please!). There was very little wrong with Amway Center as it performed more than admirably in its first season.
Yet, something still felt off.
The atmosphere was not the same. The arena never completely felt like home. For whatever reason, it just was not the same.
The seats were too far away from the court. The bowl was too big. The amenities overwhelmed. These are all nit picking items that only long-time fans may notice. But they are not something we should overlook.
Amway Center is a fantastic building. But nobody could help but notice how empty it was at the beginning of the third quarter. It looked like American Airlines Arena or the first half at Staples Center there were so many empty seats along the front row and lower bowl. It was just depressing to see on TV sometimes. Even Stan Van Gundy mentioned more than a few times how shocked the team is coming out of the locker room coming out to an empty stadium.
The stadium got loud when it needed to. But even in the Playoffs, the lower bowl was still pretty empty. Just one of the nasty side effects of having so many nice amenities.
But don’t think the players did not notice either. The cavernous Amway Center was quiet enough that opposing fans made their presence known on occassions. Magic fans were quick to shout them down. But again, the players noticed.
Going to a game at Amway Center, especially if you are in the lower bowl, became a place to be seen not to watch a game. It is something that has become a trend across the league, especially in the newer arenas. The ones that have recently been built at least.
The Magic appeared to fall victim to that trend as the bars — the Budweiser Baseline Bar and the Mercedes Benz Star Lounge specifically — kept fans away when the ball was indounded to begin the third quarter.
It might have been just going into a new building, but Amway Center just never felt like home. It did not have the same charm as Amway Arena. The stadium bowl seemed to expand forever, dwarfed by the giant jumbo tron in the middle and the ever-changing lights of the in-arena LEDs. It might have just been the games I attended, but the energy seemed to escape the building.
Distractions abounded and it was difficult to settle in.
I am really hoping this is just a first year wonderment thing and that the novelty will wear off so the actual game experience can improve. This might be asking for much and we don’t know how the fans and the stadium would have performed later in the postseason.
But as great as Amway Center was in its first year, it still did not feel completely like home. And it may be a long way to go before it finally does.
Photo via DayLife.com.