O-Rena no more


The Orlando Magic’s original home is gone.

Sunday morning, 80 pounds of dynamite sent the Orlando Arena tumbling down into a smoldering pile of former glory and memories, leaving only the four nodes that became something of a symbol for the arena and what made it unique.

The Orlando Arena (it officially retires as the Amway Arena, but I will call it by its beloved, original name for this post) was not the most glorious arena. At the time it was built in the late 1980s, it was state of the art, but it did not take long for it to become outdated. The skyboxes placed near the roof of the building were the rage at the time, but savvier arena builders elsewhere in the league — namely at the Palace of Auburn Hills, built in 1988 and still in use today, and the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, built shortly after in 1991 — saw the mid-level suite age coming.

The O-Rena’s shared concourse led to intense crowds at concession stands and bathrooms and constant complaints. The team, after that initial honeymoon period and championship run, began complaining that the revenue-producing box seats were not present.

This was, of course, the push and the argument that got the Amway Center built. And the Amway Center fixed many of these issues to rave reviews after hosting its first All-Star Weekend.

Still, the big lament in the new arena is that it wasn’t the Orlando Arena. It did not have the intimacy that the O-Rena had. It was too open. It had too many distractions keeping people from watching the game. The shared concourse was a symbol of the shared community that made going to Magic games so much fun.

Being in that bowl during the glory days in the mid-1990s was deafening. The stadium could get so loud it was difficult to hear yourself think. It was a great place to grow up watching basketball.

Yeah, the Magic needed to move. Orlando Arena could not longer sustain an NBA team. The locker rooms were cramped and there were no amenities for the high-priced clients that bring in the revenue necessary for the team to survive. The arena had just grown old and there was no way to fix it.

And the city could not just let it sit there unused.

Everything inside the Orlando Arena was long ago auctioned off, including the JumboTron to a nearby church and several items of memorabilia from the final seasons with the Magic in the O-Rena. The stadium was gutted, the lower bowl ripped out and those pesky skyboxes torn out too. All that was left today was to finally bring the building down.

The city plans to use the space for a “creative village” that will be a place for high-tech, digital companies can locate and invest and grow in Orlando. It is an ambitious plan and another way for the arena to contribute to the community on its dying breath.

The Amway Center will not ever replace the first home for the Orlando Magic. And it will be tough to replace the memories left at the O-Rena — whether it was Nick Anderson stealing the ball from Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant winning his first Shaq-less title or Scott Skiles setting the assist record.

Now all that we have left is the memory of the O-Rena. Hopefully they are all good ones. Feel free to share your favorite O-Rena memories in the comments below or on Twitter.