Alternate venues the Orlando Magic can use in the age of social distancing

Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba could return to Las Vegas if the NBA resumes its season in one city. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba could return to Las Vegas if the NBA resumes its season in one city. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

When the NBA returns, they’re not likely to have fans present. Whether they go in one location or alternate venues, here is where the Magic might play next.

The NBA is on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Orlando Magic are sitting and waiting like everyone else for the league to resume business.

It is clearly not time to do so. Cases in Florida especially are still on the rise and the government is still working to treat cases and get testing out as they continue to preach social distancing to stem the tide of the virus.

There is an eagerness and anticipation to get back to normal life. Everyone is feeling it — from the top of the country to the bottom. But we are still a long way away from getting back to basketball, let alone social gatherings of more than 10 people. Even those small social gatherings are restricted by stay-home orders.

The NBA is still figuring out what its season will look like. The league has already lost a ton of money from the China flare-up in October. And the league is going to try to limit the losses from this delay in the season. They are determined it seems to play out at least part of the regular season and the entire playoffs.

In either case, it feels very unlikely fans will be allowed in attendance and there is some consideration the league will finish out the season and maybe even its postseason at one site.

The chance of returning to games at the Amway Center and being able to physically see the Magic the rest of this season is looking worse and worse by the day. Things would have to dramatically change for the league and society to feel OK doing that.

Undoubtedly though, sports are going to cautiously return before a lot of society will — WWE and AEW are still putting on shows in front of no crowds in Florida, including WrestleMania taped over the last few weeks at the WWE Performance Center in Winter Park.  They have been the exception in the sports and entertainment world.

It is not clear when the league will return. But it will. The question is when and how.

The other question is where.

The league asked teams to provide arena dates and potential alternate sites they could use. The NBA is clearly still trying to map out what it looks like on the other end of this hiatus.

If the league still decides to have teams traveling around the country not playing in front of fans, there is a chance the league looks at different venues. It does not seem ideal to have teams play in the cavernous arenas in front of no fans.

Amway Center

The first place to start is indeed the Amway Center. Every team should at least consider playing their games in their regular arena.

It is convenient, the court is there and it has easy access to the home locker rooms. It has all the NBA-level amenities that help teams on both squads prepare for the game. There is comfort in the familiar.

There is still a lot to be said about playing in the regular arena, even if the stadium is empty.

But the big arenas are cavernous. If these games are now going to be made for TV, playing a game in a large professional arena with no one in attendance would be bad optics. And it would just be weird. Playing a game in an empty stadium is already weird, but playing a game without a crowd in a cavernous building drains energy.

If fans are not in attendance, the Amway Center is not ideal. There are other places to consider.

AdventHealth Practice Facility

The next obvious location for the Magic then is to just play in their practice facility. It is more than capable of hosting games and being a venue with a lot of energy.

The Magic used to host the Orlando Pro Summer League in the practice facility. It can easily be set up for a limited audience — including a balcony overlooking the court attached to the Magic’s basketball operations office.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

As far as things go, there are not a whole lot of better options for the Magic to host games if they cannot use their main arena. It has all the convenience of using the Amway Center without having to be in the main arena bowl.

The biggest issue with the practice facility is that it will not help with social distancing. The only place to sit, aside from the aforementioned balcony, are seats around the court. Plus there is a choke point to the visitor’s locker room. There is only really one way in or out of the building without using the Magic’s locker room.

Maybe they could work around that.

But playing games in the practice facility would give games a Summer League vibe. Those games had a lot of energy manufactured through the bench. That really works in Summer League when everyone is trying to make their way and energy is the best way to get noticed.

Maybe that would get duplicated in a playoff atmosphere.

Addition Financial Arena/The Venue at UCF

If the Magic still wanted to play somewhere that felt like a big arena but was a bit smaller, the arenas at UCF could fit well (provided the campus is open again).

Addition Financial Arena seats just 9,400 and is significantly smaller than the Amway Center (capacity of 18,846). A building half the size of the Amway Center might be a lot better visually for TV if the team still wants to be in a bigger building.

It has plenty of amenities, including locker room and easy access to a practice court, if needed. It would be a fairly easy in and out for the team and the league if it needed to go there.

So too would The Venue at UCF. The Knights’ old arena was cut down when they built Addition Financial Arena. It seats roughly 5,000 fans now and is used mostly for volleyball.

The lighting in there is not the same as the regular arena. It feels like a big high school gymnasium for the most part. And that might not be up to NBA standards. It has been a long time since basketball was played in that part of the building.

RP Funding Center

The next best location might be the home of the Lakeland Magic, the RP Funding Center.

The building hosts not only the Lakeland Magic but the FHSAA State Championship. It can be reconfigured to fit almost any event. The way the arena is structured is almost tailor-made for social distancing.

The upper bowl is still close to the floor but offset from the lower bowl. It would be easy when the Magic did want to let fans back in to open up just the upper bowl and keep everyone distant from the players.

It can obviously host NBA-adjacent basketball and would be a strong venue.

Its only downside is its distance from Orlando. It is a solid 45-minute drive from Orlando International Airport and certainly is not a NBA venue.

Then again, none of these are long-term options. The league is probably looking for a place that can give games the right energy for TV and fill the need as it comes up when the schedule resumes.

It is seeming less and less likely the NBA will explore this alternate venue option. It looks more likely they will head to a centralized location like Las Vegas to complete the season.

Next. Magic Madness 2020: On to the second round. dark

Every option is on the table at least.