A popular stop for over 20 years on the national touring circuit, the Orlando Arena (AKA Amway Arena, TD Waterhouse Center, or as the locals called it, the O-Rena) hosted hundreds of concerts over the years. That era came to an end Sunday, March 25, when the venue was imploded, accompanied by cheers from hundreds of locals who turned out to see the venue go down in flames.
Built for $110 million in the late 1980s, the 367,000-square-foot arena opened in January, 1989 with a sold-out show by Bill Cosby. Although it was the site of concerts by the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen and countless others, the venue was primarily known as the home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic basketball team.
Designed before modern luxury seating patterns took hold, the team soon claimed that the arena lost money for it due to inadequate high-end seating and limited concession space; after attempting to negotiate renovations—which would have cost a reported $75 million—with the city just six years after the venue opened, the team began pressing Orlando to co-fund a new facility in 2000. After much wrangling, the Magic got what it wanted in the form of the nearby Amway Center, which opened in October, 2010 at an estimated cost of $480 million. The first show at the new facility was a Vicente Fernandez concert.
Anything the old arena could do, the new one could do better, so the Orlando Arena was shut down in the fall of 2010; its last official event was a stop on a So You Think You Can Dance tour in September that year. Since then, the venue largely stood empty, although it did house two months of rehearsals for Cirque du Soleil’s massive Zarkana show last spring, before the production entered an extended residence at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall last summer.
Interior demolition of the Orlando Arena began on December 15, 2011, and the main body of the venue was taken down by 620 lbs. of explosives on March 25, 2012. Once the debris is cleared from the 68-acre site, Orlando expects to turn the space into what it terms a “Creative Village”—an incubator of sorts for high-tech companies.
Ever catch—or work—a show at the Orlando Arena? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.