Orlando’s Magic Makeover

The NBA’s Orlando Magic is getting a new arena, and its hometown gets a renovated Florida Citrus Bowl and new performing arts center in a much-needed downtown facelift worth more than $1 billion, city and county officials announced September 29th.

The project became doable thanks to a penny-on-the-dollar hotel bed tax recently approved in Orlando.

The renovation of the Citrus Bowl will set the city back $175 million. The stadium hosts two major college football bowl games, but is still set to lose its biggest tenant when Central Florida University moves its team to a new on-campus stadium next season.

“Downtown Orlando is undergoing a renaissance that few cities in Florida, or for that matter our country, have experienced,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

The Orlando Magic has long argued that 17-year-old TD Waterhouse Centre lacks the amenities to enhance its revenue stream and fought for a new arena to call home. With the announcement, the team could be playing in it by 2010.

The deal-maker was the basketball club’s promise to take on an additional $100 million in risk beyond an initial $100 million in cash, lease payments and operating expenses agreed to, according to Dyer.

The Citrus Bowl makeover will take place in phases so the stadium can remain in use for the annual Capital One and Champs Sports bowls, as well as the Florida Classic traditional pairing of Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman College.

When completed, the facility will also double as a concert venue for audiences from 5,000 to 25,000 in an outdoor amphitheatre setting.

“You’re basically going to put the 70-year-old structure below the two upper decks and you’re going to put it back to modern standards, concourses, fan amenities, restrooms, points of sale and new seating,” said Steve Hogan, executive director of Florida Citrus Sports.

The performing arts center will be home to the Orlando Philharmonic, Orlando Ballet and Orlando Opera, hosting more than 330 events. It’s expected to feature an 1,800-seat acoustic hall, a 2,800-seat amplified hall and 300-seat multipurpose hall.