Jenkins Arena at the RP Funding Center – Lakeland Magic
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A Little Magic
When the NBA G-League relocated the Eerie BayHawks to Florida, a list of potential suitors was named, including Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Jacksonville, CFE Arena, and Germain Arena in Estero, among others. However, it was Lakeland that won out in the end and the fans have embraced the team with open arms. Located steps away from historic downtown Lakeland, the Magic have found a home in a quaint small town just a short drive from both Orlando and Tampa, perfectly nestled between the two metropolises.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and beverage concessions at Magic games are better than most, but still not mind-blowing. BBQ chicken or pork sandwiches run $9, pork or chicken nachos cost $7, and drinks range from $4 to $14 for sweet tea, sodas, lemonade, water, cocktails, beer, and wine. The boneless chicken wings that run $8 with fries are good, but are more segmented chicken strips than boneless wings. Overall, the food options are solid and varied around the arena.
While the fans certainly make the Magic games exciting and energetic, the overall aesthetic of the arena shows its size and age. The red seats make for a stark contrast to the team’s blue, black, and white color scheme. The music and soundboard have been brought over from the Orlando Magic games, but seem out of place in such a small arena.
Overall, the facility feels like a top-level gymnasium more than it does a professional basketball arena, despite the best attempts of the team to make it feel otherwise. This, however, can be a good thing, as it leads to a more intimate setting for the fans in attendance – you keep the small town feel while also getting to see professional sports.
Lakeland isn’t a sprawling metropolis. That said, it features everything you need for your visit to be enjoyable. First off, Orlando and Tampa are almost equidistant from Lakeland, about 30 minutes away in either direction along I-4. For lodging options nearby, your closest options are right off I-4 a few miles from the arena – here you can find Motel 6, La Quinta, and Ramada.
For food, a few exits down I-4 yields Bob Evans, Subway, Five Guys, and more. For things to see and do, the Fantasy of Flight air museum is just a 15-minute drive east on I-4, and Dinosaur World is almost the same distance west on I-4. Also, being that the arena is near historic downtown Lakeland, history buffs will have some things to visit as well, with downtown featuring local shops and restaurants.
Surprisingly to some, for an NBA G-League game the fans pack the stands for the Lakeland Magic on a nightly basis. Some games, including the season opener and closing matchups, have been known to sell out. With that large fan base comes a lot of kids and families too, making this a great family atmosphere. Fans at the games know their players well and keep up to date with the standings and the away scores. This is truly a town that has embraced their local basketball team as if they were in a major city.
To get to Jenkins Arena at the RP Funding Center, I-4 is the best bet – Exit 31 will drop you off just a few miles north of the venue. From there, drive south towards historic downtown Lakeland and the facility will be right outside your car window on the right.
On-site parking is plentiful and costs $10, and signage on the highway helps direct you to the right exit as you approach. When leaving, signs also point the best direction to get back to I-4.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to games are very affordable; they start at under $20. Some theme nights feature discounted tickets as well, including some where tickets are free to certain fans. Giveaways and theme nights are also plentiful during the season, which makes each game a unique experience. Add this to the affordability of the concessions as a whole, and you can easily take a family of four to a game without breaking the bank.
Theme nights are popular, with some games featuring special jerseys for movies, super heroes, or local charities. Also, the Magic have a unique mascot, much like their Orlando counterparts, in the bright yellow Swish.
In addition, giveaways from sponsors are plentiful and available on a nightly basis in the family zone downstairs, and if you’re a season ticket holder, you get a dedicated parking area and entrance for Lakeland Magic games.
The Lakeland Magic have found a home in this small central Florida town, and are making the most of their time here. With a growing local fan base that flocks to games with great frequency, to a great young core of players that have made the team an immediate contender, the Magic are definitely a must-see attraction for basketball lovers in the Central Florida sports scene.
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Ramada by Wyndham Lakeland
3260 US Hwy 98 N
Lakeland, FL 33805
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