Orlando Magic taking steps to keep up in facilities arms race

Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford will have difficult decisions and adjustments to make without Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford will have difficult decisions and adjustments to make without Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic secured permission to buy land for a new practice facility as they aim to keep up in a growing arms race around the league.

The Orlando Magic like to boast they have the best arena in the league. The Amway Center is still used as a model for many teams as they look to build or refurbish their arenas. Even 10 years into its life, the Amway Center has proven adaptable and top-of-the-line.

That is for both the front-of-house and back-of-house experience.

Fans may enjoy the new technological advancements and enhancements around the Amway Center or the new food options or in-game entertainment. But the team has enjoyed the enhancements behind the scenes.

One of the big things president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, and his staff including director of player development and basketball operations Becky Bonner, did when he took over was revamp the team’s weight room and practice facility. Part of his project was to transform how players interact with each other and how they interact within the practice facility.

There was still only so much the team could do. The Amway Center remains one of the best arenas. But the practice facility — now dubbed the AdventHealth Practice Facility — has little room for growth. The interior is changed, but there are still limitations.

And like in college athletics, there is a new arms race growing around the league. The Magic simply cannot keep up staying in the Amway Center full time.

Josh Robbins of The Athletic first reported the Magic’s desire to build a new practice facility back in March. The reality is the newer practice facilities afford teams more space for their operations and multiple courts to allow players more space to prepare and practice. The Amway Center and the AdventHealth Practice Facility cannot compete.

This week, the Magic took an important step toward making this new expansion a reality.

The Orlando City Council unanimously approved the sale of city-owned land (subscription required) near Exploria Stadium for $5.1 million to build the practice facility and a community health center run by AdventHealth.

"“The Orlando Magic, DeVos family and AdventHealth intend to build a world-class training and health facility which will provide Magic players, coaches and our human performance staff with the resources and technology necessary to excel in an increasingly competitive NBA landscape, while furthering our shared vision in providing health and wellness services in the Parramore community,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement Monday."

The land the Magic purchased for this project is currently a vacant lot and a parking lot used for events at Amway Center and Exploria Stadium in Downtown Orlando.

The Magic will at least make an attempt to have the facility open to residents in the historic Parramore community. But that is not likely to assuage concerns that this is another step toward gentrifying the neighborhood.

For the team, however, this is a necessary move to keep the team competitive. Teams around the league are opening up similar practice facilities. And nobody can fall behind.

The Magic are not yet ready to hit the free agency market. They probably will not come into much cap room until the summer of 2022, even with big contracts ahead for Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz.

It is not clear when the project will be completed. The Magic still have to put shovel to the ground to start the entertainment complex across from the Amway Center.

In all likelihood, the Magic will have more motivation to complete the practice facility and will get to work on it quickly. As much as anything a small-market team like the Magic has to impress potential free agents when the time comes and take care of their own to keep them here.

Winning is ultimately what matters. And the Magic are seeking every advantage they can get to get the most of their players.

Magic Attendance Down, TV Ratings Still Up

Attendance in the Amway Center has looked a bit sparse. Maybe some poor opponents played a factor. But even the Orlando Magic’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks did not seem so great.

A Saturday late afternoon game against the league’s best team with the MVP only drew an announced attendance of 16,632. That part is not encouraging.

Orlando has an average attendance of 16,932 fans per game. That is down from 17,562 last year. A late-season playoff run could help attendance. But it is undeniably down this season.

That does not mean interest in the Magic is down. Orlando is still generating plenty of interest.

Magic TV ratings are up significantly at this point in the season compared to last year. Fans are indeed watching and the Magic are getting plenty of interest.

Making the playoffs then certainly has added to the interest in the team and how people tune in on a game-to-game basis. Even with the disappointments in the season and the fact the Magic have virtually the same record at this point last year, the Magic are a team fans are still watching.

How long that will last? That is to be determined. Fans are certainly hungry for the team to take another step forward and avoid the treadmill of mediocrity.

But winning in the short-term appears to have gained interest. And while the Magic are still very much a small-market team — Forbes recently rated the Magic as the 27th-most valuable franchise in the league — they are still a team that gets its share.

Next. Mohamed Bamba progressing nicely for Orlando Magic. dark

Magic fans are tuning in and watching this team at high rates. The Magic just have to find a way to grow this fan base and perhaps get them to the Amway Center.