Amway Center – Orlando Solar Bears
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The idea of hockey in Florida should no longer be a foreign one to sports fans – the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning have been in the league for several decades with their respective successes in the NHL. The ECHL also has several Florida teams, including the Orlando Solar Bears.
Perhaps unfairly forgotten about by most in the Central Florida sports landscape, this hidden gem provides a perfect opportunity to see some great hockey in an A-plus facility that won’t break your bank. In the last few years, Orlando’s sports revival has seen the stock of the Solar Bears experience rise exponentially, with fans packing the house on a nightly basis for Orlando hockey.
Food & Beverage 5
The concessions at Orlando Solar Bears games are impressive for not being a top-tier professional sports league – a hot dog costs just $4.50 and a giant plate of nachos runs $10. Drinks range from $4.50 for a regular soda to $8 for large sodas. Beer ranges from $7.50 to $8.50, a fair price for any sporting facility.
Perhaps the deal of the night is the combos, where one can get a cheeseburger, fries, and regular soda for $14. The quality of the food items is also top notch, with mouth-watering options on display at every turn. Finally, perhaps the coolest thing about Amway Center is the bar that is outside on the main concourse level, overlooking the downtown skyline while also providing a beautiful gathering space for some fresh air, good drinks, and TVs that show the action inside. For Orlando Solar Bears games, all fans also have access to the 180 Sky lounge on the rooftop of the arena as well.
Amway Center is simply beautiful inside – from the perfectly polished floors to the great lighting in the concourses, every inch is always pristine and clean. Additionally, the facility feels brand new, and nothing looks old and withered.
When the team scores, the acoustics make it such that even a small crowd seems large. Because this is the home of the NBA Orlando Magic as well, you can still see the Magic hall of fame area in the main concourse, as well the Magic championship banners hanging in the rafters of Amway Center.
What can you say about downtown Orlando? Amway Center is literally steps from Church Street, the hub of Orlando’s rebirth as a foodie and entertainment destination. The City of Orlando has become a sports-thirsty destination over the last few years – with the explosion in popularity of Orlando City SC and a renewed interest in the Orlando Magic, the City Beautiful loves sports.
The immediate area around Amway Center includes suburbs to the west and the downtown city center to the east. There are tons of hotels nearby, and since the arena sits next to I-4, getting to other resorts and hotels in the greater Orlando area is not hard to do either. Fans can easily stay at the Crowne Plaza Orlando-Downtown, Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, or the Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Downtown, and still walk to the arena with ease. Aside from those, there are still numerous hotels and resorts in the Orlando area, both downtown and to the south towards the theme parks. Disney’s resorts, arguably the farthest from the arena, are just 30 minutes away without traffic.
For local restaurants, the Lion’s Pride is one of the most popular sports bars in the Church Street area. Fans also visit The Rusty Spoon, Jernigan’s Restaurant, and Chela Tequila & Tacos. And if you want to see the sights, Lake Eola Park is just a few blocks away – this park is an Orlando landmark that is also home to a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. You can also find another quality farmer’s market on weekends outside of Orlando City Stadium, home to Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride. Being in Orlando, you are also just a short drive from either Walt Disney World, Sea World, or the Universal Studios theme parks.
The fans who come to Orlando Solar Bear games are passionate to say the least – they love their hockey team and cheer them on with fervor. A lot of them can be seen sporting t-shirts and jerseys from the team, an impressive feat for any minor league or lower-division professional sports franchise working in the shadows of other, larger pro teams in the city.
The disappointment here, however, is the lack of fans. While bigger games do draw larger fan totals, such as opening night, themed nights, and playoff games, your run-of-the-mill, mid-week games only draw about half capacity, which can leave the arena looking bare in some places. Even during playoff games, the upper-most deck of Amway Center is covered by large curtains. That said, the attendance has been growing as of late, which is encouraging for the Solar Bears and their quest to return to prominence.
Amway Center, and all of Orlando’s professional sports stadiums downtown, are refreshingly easy to get to. Driving on I-4, you literally pass within a few yards of Amway Center itself, so not finding the facility is almost impossible. But if you do somehow get lost, signs all around downtown point the way to the facility.
Once you get to Amway Center, the Geico Garage is your best option for parking – the $15 per game parking fee is very affordable for a family to go to a game, and that price does not increase during playoff games. One of the best aspects of this garage, though, is that it connects with the arena through a skywalk across West South Street (into the arena’s main concourse from the third parking level). This makes getting to the game, parking, and getting inside easy, especially on those rainy Florida afternoons.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets are not expensive for Orlando Solar Bears games, and neither is parking. Add to this the quality and quantity you get for food when at the game, and you have one of the best values when it comes to taking your family out for some hockey. With the ease of getting to the arena, parking, getting into the game, and finding something to eat inside, it is hard to argue against the Solar Bears when comparing them to other hockey teams around the minor leagues, and maybe some pro hockey teams as well.
The Solar Bears play in Amway Center, which means you will see plenty of Orlando Magic history here. From banners hanging in the rafters to the hall of memories in the main concourse, any sports fan can get their Magic fix during a hockey game here.
Additionally, the Orlando Solar Bears mascot Shades comes out and visits with the fans throughout the game, making him accessible for photos with the kids. The players even skate out during introductions through an inflatable polar bear tunnel, which is a neat throwback to hockey and sports intros of old.
Another neat aspect is the various games the staff sets up for fans – one intermission game includes purchasing rubber pucks to throw from the stands into bins in the middle of the ice to win prizes. The team also has a dance crew, and frequently invites local school performers to sing or dance in-between periods for the fans.
The Orlando Solar Bears are a great choice when looking for a quality addition to your Central Florida visit. Whether you’re a hockey fanatic, a sports junkie in general, or just want to find something to take the family to that won’t cost you $100 a head to get in the door, hitting up a Solar Bears game is a great option for you to consider. Between the low cost and the high entertainment value, it is easy to see why the Orlando Solar Bears are on their way up from here.
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Crowne Plaza Orlando-Downtown
304 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32801
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