The Orlando Magic‘s old Amway Arena was demolished yesterday, if “old” is the right word for it: The arena was just 23 years old, and had been targeted for replacement by its NBA tenants pretty much since it opened.
The Magic’s owner (Amway kingpin Rich DeVos) complained from the start that the building was economically obsolete, because it lacked the kind of luxury and club seats that other, newer arenas built in the 1990s had. To put that in context, consider these quotes from the old arena’s Wikipedia page:
Major renovation was beginning to seem unfeasible in 1997 when the task-force determined that the cost of implementing everything that the team wanted would reach up to $75 million. The revenues brought in by the changes likely would not be enough to cover mortgage payments on money that would have to be borrowed to pay for the renovation…
On September 29, 2006, the City of Orlando and Orange County finally came to an agreement on a $1.1-billion improvement package that included $480 million for a new arena. The Magic would provide $114 million in cash and up-front lease payments and guarantee $100 million in bonds toward the arena. The venue plan received final approval on July 26, 2007, and the arena was completed in time for the 2010‚Äì11 NBA season.
In other words, the old arena wasn’t making enough money for DeVos’ tastes, and spending $75 million on renovations would only make profits go down. But an entirely new arena that cost six times that amount was just what the doctor ordered, so long as taxpayers paid most of the tab and the Magic kept all the revenues.
If you want the template for stadium and arena development over the last 20 years, there it is in a nutshell.