Denton: Magic, Amway Center Leader Earns Big Honor

By John Denton
March 13, 2012

ORLANDO – There are times during Orlando Magic games when Charles Freeman will leave the comfort of his courtside seat and go wandering throughout various areas of the Amway Center.

There’s a purpose to the strolls for Freeman, the Magic’s executive vice president of business development. As the man responsible for the design, construction and development of the dazzling Amway Center, Freeman takes tremendous pride now in seeing Magic fans enjoy all that the state-of-the-art facility has to offer.

“I’ll go walking around and see all of the kids and the families and just get a big smile on my face,” Freeman said. “The vision was to create amenities for everyone and be different than other facilities where premium was always the focus. We wanted to have amenities for everyone. Even the restaurant, anyone who has a ticket in the building can make a reservation and enjoy a wonderful meal and watch the game.”

Critical decisions like the one to make the Amway Center the most technologically advanced and accessible facility to all fans are earning Freeman rave reviews these days. Freeman, 37, was recently named to The Forty Under 40 list by the SportsBusiness Journal and the SportsBusiness Daily. The purpose of the Forty Under 40 list is to honor the most promising young executives in sports business under the age of 40.

A committee of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily editors and writers selected the 40 executives from among hundreds of nominations. Freeman, who has worked with the Magic for 16 years, said the award was “a team effort” and he was quick to give credit to those around him, namely the DeVos family and Magic CEO Alex Martins.

“It’s really fun and very humbling for me,” said Freeman, whose primary responsibilities now include oversight and management of ticket sales, premium sales and client services, ticket operations, arena operations and retail. “A lot of people deserve a lot of credit for the work put in on the Amway Center. It was a team effort across the board.”

Freeman’s rise through the Magic’s organization seems almost like something out of a Hollywood script. He started out working with the team as an intern in January of 1996 while he was a senior business major at Rollins College. In the next few years he was the team’s director of business development and in 2005 he became the vice president of business development. In 2007, Freeman was promoted to the senior vice president of business development where he was responsible for overseeing the Magic’s efforts to obtain the necessary approval for the Amway Center.

Those historic moments came on July 23 and 26, 2007, when the City of Orlando and the Orange County Commission approved a public building program that cleared the way for the construction of the Amway Center. Freeman, who was openly emotional and shed plenty of tears upon the approval, remembers the day like it was yesterday. Long before the Amway Center was ever built, Freeman knew the importance that day would have on the Central Florida community. Not only did the approval mean Central Florida would ultimately have arguably the nicest facility in pro sports, but it also secured the Magic’s future in Orlando for generations to come.

“It was a neat moment. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and energy,” Freeman remembered. “It was also the kickoff to an incredible facility that we all knew could bring so much to this community.”

The Magic oversaw the construction of the Amway Center and the team was on the hook for any cost overruns during the building of the massive facility. That put extra pressure on Martins and Freeman, yet the Magic’s duo could relax once the $380 million commitment of the $480 million facility came with one percent of the overall budget.

As promised, the creation of the Amway Center attracted the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in February, and the basketball world got a closer look at a facility that many have deemed the best in the league. Freeman took great delight in other executives from around the NBA getting a peek at the marvelous facility that Magic fans have been able to enjoy on a nightly basis since the opening in October of 2010.

“There were two key moments – the opening of the building and then the All-Star Game,” Freeman said. “The opening of the building was incredible for the local community and for everybody who calls Central Florida home. And then for the All-Star Game, it was great for everybody in the world to see and learn what the Amway Center is all about.

“During the All-Star Game we were able to take a lot of people from other teams around the building, and for them to give us compliments and talk about all of the things they’d like to take back to their arena, it was very fulfilling,’’ Freeman continued. “We got to spend time and learn from others. We did a lot of due diligence and learned from what people did well and in some cases we learned what didn’t work. It helped us to take the best of the best and then have our own unique elements as well that we could sprinkle in and create a nice and diverse facility for the people of Central Florida.’’

Freeman said so much of the success of the Amway Center belongs to Martins, his mentor for years in the Magic organization. The lessons learned from Martins and others he’s worked alongside in the organization have helped him become one of the most promising business leaders in the sports world today.

“I always look to add value wherever I can. That’s the thing that somebody taught me early on – try to make a difference and add value wherever you can,” Freeman said. “I always had the goal in mind, if I was ever in a tough situation to see what I could do to make a difference. That’s what I’m all about.”

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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