irTran Airways and the
have signed a deal that will make it the exclusive airline advertised inside the new events center —
's boldest move yet to define itself as Orlando's hometown carrier.
It's about time.
For years AirTran has dipped a toe in Orlando — where it maintains its technical corporate headquarters — while most of its operations, employees and community outreach have been firmly planted in Atlanta.
The agreement with the Magic, which according to people familiar with the terms is for seven years and valued at seven figures, is the airline's most convincing act so far that it is beginning to feel at home here.
That sort of commitment offers a bright spot in an otherwise glum economy. One of the most effective ways to encourage local companies to grow and raise their local profiles is for them to see others doing just that.
The new arena is shaping up to be a showcase for local brands.
AirTran joins Melbourne-based
, which in April was announced as the Magic's technology partner in the new center, supplying 1,100 video screens and other equipment throughout the building.
Magic Chief Operating Officer
said he hopes to announce four more partners known as "Champions of the Community" before the building opens next year.
AirTran's deal means the end of the
Crew at Magic games. AirTran gains exclusivity rights as the only airline that will be marketed in the new center, with its presence to begin this season in the final year at the
The carrier's name will also be on a highly visible box and lounge in the inner bowl of the arena to be called the AirTran Airways Flight Deck. Preliminary renderings show it to be outfitted with seats that look like business class airplane seats and other decor evocative of an aircraft.
Martins said the team aggressively pursued a number of airlines as partners and eventually zeroed in on AirTran. It courted the carrier's executives with pitches on how the video screen system supplied by Harris will allow the airline to advertise its business class amenities to people sitting in the center's premium seats while targeting a different message such as fare sales to cheaper seats.
Martins said he found similarities between the Magic and AirTran.
"It's another homegrown Orlando company on the rise. People are beginning to take notice in terms of the quality of the brand," Martins said. "In our own ways, I think we're establishing a similar path."
AirTran Chief Executive Officer Bob Fornaro said AirTran's profile here is "dramatically stronger" than it was just a few years ago.
But Atlanta is still its hub and the company says its profile there will not be cut back as it expands in Orlando.
In fact, when Magic executives made their big pitch to AirTran complete with presenting Fornaro and others personalized jerseys with their names on the back, they did so in Atlanta.
Team flies Northwest
AirTran may be the exclusive airline of the Magic, but
and the rest of the starting lineup only fly Northwest Airlines.
That's because last year the Magic sold its private jet and signed onto a three-year deal with Northwest's new charter system for the
. The planes are specially outfitted with roomier seats for 7-foot frames and are saving the Magic money in the long run because the team would have had to perform maintenance and upgrades on its