Two years ago, the Amway Center opened to high praise and controversy over the price tag that came with it. Although I had fond memories of the Amway Arena (aka the O-rena), it was time for something new. I have had the pleasure of enjoying four events inside this state-of-the-art entertainment complex. Each offering four very different and distinct experiences.
Get on the Floor
My very first concert at Amway Center was Sugarland. Through the wisdom of my best pal, we bought tickets on the floor level in the “Sugar Pit”. The option to purchase tickets in the floor area vary between seats and a standing room only set-up, depending on the event and the particular performer. For those fans really wanting to get up close and personal it is the best option. However, in the standing room only situation you must have stamina and a large enough group to guard your territory and take turns for food, beverage, and bathroom breaks.
In the Nosebleeds
My second experience at Amway Center was on the completely other end of the spectrum and in a class all its own: Jimmy Buffett. You don’t have to be a parrotthead to know that Jimmy Buffett concerts = total tailgating. Because of the challenging tailgating situation at Amway Center, the awesome folks at Margaritaville Cafe decided to throw an official tailgate party. The party started 8 hours before the concert and included complimentary buses to the concert. Overall it was a fin-tastic way to spend a Saturday.
Jimmy concerts don’t come cheap. So we opted for nosebleed seats and the upper rim of the Amway Center truly qualifies as nosebleed. The seats are packed in tight and high. The view was challenging, but we were surrounded by enthusiastic parrottheads and we all had a great time. Depending on the event, the nosebleed seats may not be worth it, however for us we simply wanted to be there by any means necessary.
A Taste of the Suite Life
This past February, Orlando was the proud host of the 2012 NBA All Star Weekend. Through pure luck, my husband and I were given two passes to the Rising Star Challenge, but these weren’t just any passes, they were seats in one of the Founder’s Suites!
The Founder’s Suite level is a whole other world. Once we entered the suite we couldn’t contain ourselves. The view, the oversized seats, the kitchenette, the flatscreen TVs, it was all too much. Everything on this level felt so exclusive: the corridors were less noisy and more open, even the restrooms were upgraded. We enjoyed our taste of the suite life and I encourage you that if this level is ever offered to you, not matter the event, just do it!
The Concierge Level
Having gotten acquainted with the Amway Center, I craved more. I wanted to go back. I convinced husband to go with me to see Zac Brown Band. When purchasing our tickets we had trouble deciding between the lower bowl or the Concierge Level. The pricing was the same, except the Concierge Level is one level up from the lower bowl and is said to offer an upgraded experience.
After tailgating, we headed over to the Center. A gorgeous sunset bathed the Church Street block party in a spectacular orange and peach glow. We headed to the Concierge Level elevators and waited… and waited… and waited. Frustrated we took the escalator to the third floor and waited again for the elevator to the fourth floor. We expected upgraded food and beverage offerings based on what I read. Instead, all food outlets but the burger stand were closed.
We were extremely disappointed and headed to the bar to drown our sorrows. We could have headed back downstairs and visited the regular concession stands, but what was the point? Hadn’t we opted for the Concierge Level so that we could take advantage of an upgraded experience?
The concert itself was awesome! Any music fan would be impressed by Zac Brown Band’s musical talent. Not only did they please the audience by playing some of the fans’ favorite songs, they also surprised us by performing Nirvana’s “All Apologies”, Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”, and Charlie Daniels’ “the Devil went down to Georgia”.
Their encore left me speechless. After performing one of their latest hits, “The Wind”, the band led the entire audience in a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful”. We all sang proudly, me with tears streaming down my face, and then they went into one of their very first hits “Chicken Fried”, a song about loving American and Southern living.
Maybe our expectations were off, but we were disappointed in our Concierge Level experience. Sure, the corridors were nicer, there was plenty of comfortable seating areas, and the bars were more elaborate, but we left hungry and didn’t feel like it was worth it. It was a pain to get to the level and a pain to exit the building from this level as well. Next time we will probably just opt for lower bowl seats.
Overall, the Amway Center is one of the nation’s top venues. It is beautiful inside, with the latest technology and pretty details. It can be overwhelming trying to find your desired food and drink, there are bars and lounges inside the venue that are not right in plain sight and are somewhat hidden. But, the atmosphere inside and around the venue creates a party atmosphere and makes an event fun and unforgettable. As a Native, I am very proud of the Center and thankful to be able to enjoy it from time to time.
- Zac Brown’s celebratory sound continues to connect (hamptonroads.com)
- A Local’s Favorite Orlando Watering Holes (thisfloridalife.com)