History changes hands in downtown Orlando on Friday, 10.1.10, with the opening of the Amway Center; The multimillion dollar event venue that boasts state-of-the-art, hi-tech, and every other flattering catch phrase that Webster’s can dish out. It even has it its own flattering catch phrase for the grand opening ad campaign – Enter Legend. How do you not look forward to that?
Amid the pomp, circumstance and ribbon-cutting there is another, quieter side to the opening of the new venue. The closing of the old one.
As the new rings in, the old is wrung out. Despite the problems, out-dated amenities and dated appearance of Amway Arena, there is still a value that cannot be glossed over. Especially for those of us who spent many a night in the belly of the beast.
Former colleague and forever friend Jim Abbott, music writer for the Orlando Sentinel, spent much of his career covering concerts at the O-Rena (a vintage moniker that just stuck with the old building despite the name changes). As a burgeoning event photographer in my days at The Sentinel, I covered everything from minor league hockey to big league basketball to, yes, concerts.
I remember watching the Solar Bears – Orlando’s International Hockey League team – both as a fan and as a pass holding member of the media. I covered them for The Sentinel during their 2001 season when they became the last team to with the Turner Cup before the league folded.
I watched from the stands as Shaquille O’Neal played as a rookie in the Orlando Magic lineup, only to find myself – a mere seven years later – at court side, photographing the team in action.
I was there when RUSH took the stage at the grand old venue during their Roll The Bones Tour of 1992. And I photographed the concert event of a lifetime when REM teamed up with Bruce Springsteen , John Fogerty and Tracy Chapman during the Vote For Change Tour of 2004.
They will remain some of the best times I have spent in Orlando, and some of the best assignments I’ve had the pleasure of carrying out.
As those doors close, new ones will open. I have watched the Amway Center slowly emerge through each phase of construction (I pass the site every day on my way to work) and have toured the facility three times as it took shape. It lives up to every boast, and will help make many more fantastic memories.
I will enjoy the new, but I will always cherish the old. Here are just a few of those most cherished.