The Amway Arena....that word arena, so reminisce of the original arena in the Colosseum in Rome, this arena is dedicated to the Orlando Magic. If they market it right, it can be an excellent venue for many other activities including concerts and conventions and bring much needed revenue to downtown. Though it has been open several months, this was my first time. It was impressive. The word that comes to mind is large.
My reason for attending was Joyce Meyer, who was in town opening the Amway Center for free since her conferences are always free. Thank you, Joyce! Men and women alike filled the arena, and yes there were seats left over. It's a huge place. Israel Houghton and New Tribe were there also and I enjoyed every minute I was there. I will extend my comments on the experience on another blog entry.
At the arena, I did not waste the opportunity to see the arena itself and enjoy the experience of visiting a new place, at least what was open to us. My impressions? As I walked in there were tall murals to my left and long escalators to the right. Significantly different to the old arena, the huge steps up to the entrance were gone. So everyone, including the handicapped, now have an easy entrance.
I must interject that the Arena experience, begins long before you take a step into the Amway Arena. It begins on the street and there I think signs are lacking. I went the old familiar way, simply for curiosity, nostalgia, since you can clearly see the new arena from I-4. People will do this and they should have a sign at the old place. It wouldn't hurt. Then on Amelia Street corner of I-4 they should place a clear sign that points to go left down Hughley. I am so glad I took that route because I avoided all the traffic getting off of 408 to I-4. There must be another entrance there. Since I took the Amelia Street exit off of I-4 north, I followed Hughley and went to the parking garage in front of the arena. Be ready to pay ten dollars for that parking spot. Keep you little parking ticket in a handy spot because you will need to give it to an attendant when you are exiting the parking lot.
So when I parked my car, on the fourth floor I found an easy access to the elevators and off I went. It was simple. I only had to cross the street. Since they close off the street to traffic, pedestrians are free to cross the street any where safely. Cafes and shops line the street on one side while beautiful date palms are planted in front of the arena. Security is every where in the parking lot itself and on the street making it a nice safe experience.
Once inside I noticed the tall murals, unfortunately I wasn't so impressed with them since they seemed a missed opportunity to have a mural that would connect Orlando's rich history in sports to the present. Nevertheless the escalators make it I an easy transition to the higher levels of the Arena. Obviously when I arrived the ground level was full since everyone was being routed to the escalators and the upper floors.
When I started walking around the arena, I quickly realized if I hadn't told you already, you have to be prepared to walk. So bring comfortable shoes. Fortunately for me, I had and walking around was a pleasure. There were many people coming and going and the hustle and bustle seemed like you were walking through a busy street, yet it didn't feel crowded. There were concession booths on the right and left with places to buy food and soda, as well as places to sit and/or have a picture opp. They had one spot that looked like an old postcard of Orlando that was too cute but people were using it so I didn't take a picture, but there was a colorful sprawled out sign of Orlando that I was able to capture. Bathrooms were strategically placed between each section though they seemed small and crowded once the event let out. Lines extended up to 20 people out of the ladies room. Why can't stadium designers get this right for once?
Other than that, I wish they would give tours of the arena because I think I would like to see their sky boxes and other amenities. Next time I will go earlier. All in all, it was a good experience. If they fix the signage to get there recognizing that they will be having out of town guests as well as local newcomers, they might be more accommodating. The reality is that Orlando is a growing city with a lot of people moving in and out and they need to have signage that makes it easier for everyone to get about downtown. Other than that, I am certainly looking forward to returning again and again.