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ORLANDO-Who got the better part of the deal in a new arena lease negotiated by Orlando Magic with the city?That’s the latest topic being debated by fans of the National Basketball Association team that suggested a seven-year lease only two months ago.

When the team’s existing contract is up in 2004, the Magic will rent the 17,500-seat TD Waterhouse Centre on a year-by-year term instead of signing for five-year extensions. The Magic paid the city $15,000 per-game rent or $600,000 for the 40-home game season in 2000. The team also paid the city 1% of ticket sales.

The city pays the Magic a percentage of the beer and food sales at each game. That amount was $827,000 last year. A new clause in the lease requires the Magic to pay the city the stipulated game rent even if the team should leave the city before the season is over.

The new lease comes in a year punctuated by ongoing squabbles among the team, the public, the city and the 5,000-member hotel/motel association on the fate of the 12-year-old Downtown arena.

The Magic initially wanted the city, county and state to contribute the bulk of the funds for a $250 million structure. Public opinion, however, felt the Magic should foot most of the bill, not hotel guests paying a 5% room tax or the taxpayers.

Later, the Magic settled for a $75 million renovation of the existing 325,000-sf arena, but without stipulating how much of the cost team owners were willing to contribute.

Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood has repeated the city’s position that it would not and could not subsidize the team despite its claimed annual average losses of $10 million over the last four years.

Magic owner Rich DeVos and his executive board had sought further percentages of revenue earned by the city at the arena from non-sporting events. For example, parking fees last year amounted to $266,000.

Despite suspicion in some quarters that DeVos is still planning to move the NBA franchise to another city in the next two or three years, Magic officials say they will remain in Orlando for as long as the fans want them.

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