Amway Tour: Collaboration Created NBA’s Most Technologically Advanced Arena

Robyn Kurth, a writer with a background in scripting, speechwriting, and video production, reports from the SVG Venue Tour of Orlando’s Amway Center.

When the Amway Center hosted its first Orlando Magic home game on 10-10-10, it was a watershed moment for the City of Orlando, the Orlando Magic, and the technology partners that helped create the most technologically advanced arena in North America. On March 2, SVG gave nearly 100 professionals in the IT, video, and sports industry a closer look at the state-of-the -art Amway Center as part of its Venue Tour Series.

The event featured panelists from the Orlando Magic, title sponsor Harris Corp., technology sponsors Crown Castle and Ross Video, as well as Thompson Ross & Associates, Meyer Sound, and WJHW. Keynote speaker Charlie Freeman, EVP of business development for the Orlando Magic, noted that the Amway Center was a project more than a decade in the making.

“We started back in 1999 and went through a bumpy road in the 9/11 days,” Freeman said. “We started back up in 2004, and we got a successful approval in 2007 as a joint venture with the city, county, and ourselves.

“It was a great partnership with the city, a lot of collaboration,” Freeman added. “The city is the owner and operator of this facility. We are just a tenant. We wanted to control a lot of the front-of-house operation, so we control the box office and the premium-level operation. And it was incredibly important that we oversaw the technology.”

The Amway Center has more than 1,100 screens of HD content via their IT network and a cutting-edge digital signage network. The Daktronics center-hung video board is the largest scoreboard in both the NBA and NHL, weighing in at 88,000 lbs. It has four primary HD LED video displays, plus eight auxiliary video/scoring/statistics displays and two LED ring displays. All of the center-hung digital displays have high-resolution 6-mm surface-mount LED pixel technology, so large images can be spread across multiple screens without distortion or loss of resolution.

“I’m not sure that anything that we have here was available when we started the project,” said Chris Williams, VP of WJHW.

One of the issues that arose during construction was whether the Orlando Magic or the City of Orlando would control the IPTV network.

“Both parties thought it was their network to manage,” said Ward Ross, principal at Thompson Ross & Associates. “That’s where the third-party neutral managing company came in. Harris can do both the IT and networking sides as well as the broadcast, control, and the television.”

With smartphone technology becoming such an important part of the fan experience, Amway Center’s developers resolved the issue of who owned the wireless rights to the building by tapping Crown Castle to install, manage, and maintain the systems for AT&T, T-Mobile, and, later this year, Metro PCS and Verizon.

The investment in creating such a technologically advanced arena is already starting to pay off. In addition to Orlando Magic games, the Amway Center has already booked concerts with big-name stars like Lady Gaga, Usher, and Taylor Swift, and the venue will also host the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

“The All-Star game is more than just an All-Star game; it’s an All-Star weekend,” said Freeman. “It provides over $100 million worth of economic impact.”