ORLANDO, FL (AP) The Orlando Magic need a new arena to ensure their viability in central Florida, according to NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Stern, who spoke at the team’s tip-off luncheon Friday, said if the 15-year-old TD Waterhouse Centre isn’t soon replaced, “then I think we’d have a problem.”
The Magic’s ownership have wanted a new home court for years, claiming their 17,248-seat arena lacks moneymaking amenities such as club seats and midlevel luxury boxes. But following the huge blow the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, delivered to the region’s tourism-dependent economy, negotiations with local officials were shelved.
Magic president Bob Vander Weide said his office recently fielded calls from Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer and preliminary talks have begun.
“This is the year,” Vander Weide said. “This is the year to start talking. We’ve been quiet. There’s going to be time to have dialogue and get the process started.”
The arena is the league’s sixth-oldest, but New York’s Madison Square Garden (1968), New Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena (1981), Detroit’s Palace (1988) and Milwaukee’s Bradley Center (1988) have since undergone renovations. The Charlotte Coliseum (1988) is being phased out with the construction of a new facility, while Sacramento is in talks to replace Arco Arena (1988).
If no arena is built, the Magic may move. Both Kansas City and St. Louis, which are building or already have built new downtown arenas, are trying to land an NBA team if one is willing to relocate.
“I think Orlando, its city government, the chamber [of commerce], its business community, understand what’s at stake here,” Stern said. “The NBA likes to keep franchises where they are. Situations usually work themselves out. Sometimes they don’t.”
The last franchise relocation was two seasons ago, when the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans. Charlotte immediately began building a new arena and the NBA granted the city an expansion franchise. The Bobcats start play this season.