It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dwight Howard was a huge part of the reason the new Amway Center was built- it was built riding the infusion of interest and subsequent money that followed the Magic’s success. When it was opened it was supposed to be the final piece in the Magic’s plan to keep Dwight in Orlando, a giant monument to Orlando’s desire to be a top tier destination and team. Now, with billboards popping up imploring Dwight not to leave, and rampant speculation that he’ll head to a different team next offseason after a disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Hawks will the Amway Center help to keep Dwight in a Magic uniform?
Ironically, it seems as though two of Dwight’s most likely destinations if he leaves are set to compete with the new Amway Center. The new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a brand new arena built by owners who are willing to open their pocketbooks and spare no expense that will open the same summer Dwight is a free agent is likely to completely negate any benefits that building Amway Center. Furthermore Madison Square Garden, which is still a premier arena despite the occasional asbestos exposure and risk of mesothelioma cancer, is set to undergo major renovations beginning in 2011 to bring it up to date in the modern era. Both would tentatively offer Dwight a showcase arena and training facility comparable to the Amway Center located in a major market.
However, I’m not convinced that building the Amway Center didn’t speak to Dwight about the loyalty and desire for a championship that not only the magic management and ownership have, but also the Orlando taxpayers, who footed the bill for the arena. Furthermore while the Barclays Center and MSG may be comparable, to have no built the arena would have left us with one of the oldest NBA arenas in the country, and simply being equal footing with other teams in this regard definitely can’t hurt our chances of keeping Dwight. It also could have left us susceptible to losing the entire Magic franchise, similar to how Sacramento is in jeopardy of losing the Kings. After all, ARCO Arena was only a year older than Amway Arena.
All of that said, the new Amway Center could be a troublesome burden if Dwight does decide to leave. If the Magic become a perennial lottery team, it could seriously dampen the economic effect that local business owners were hoping to achieve with the Amway Center, because presumably traffic would be remarkably less.