City of Orlando has a deal for residents and visitors: watch the NBA All-Star game — for free.

The NBA All-Star Weekend starts today, leading up to Sunday's big game at the Amway Center. (Photo by Dave Raith).

ORLANDO – As city leaders are quick to point out, there are plenty of benefits to having an All Star game played in your own background, including all the added revenue it generates for the city.
If there’s a down side, it’s how enormously expensive it is to get tickets for the NBA All-Star Game being played at the Amway Center on Sunday. The Web site StubHub! – where fans buy and sell tickets – currently has some seats available, at prices ranging from $291 for promenade end seating to $102,944 for a seat in the Presidential Suite.
Now Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is giving city residents an opportunity to watch the NBA All-Star game – for free. Granted, it won’t be inside the Amway Center, but the mayor is offeringthose who haven’t been able to find tickets with a second option: watching the game under the stars on the big screen at the Lake Eola Park amphitheater in downtown Orlando. On Sunday, Feb. 26 beginning at 6 p.m. the City of Orlando is going to host the first ever official NBA All-Star Game Watch Party.
The 2012 NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday at the Amway Center, which is the home of the Orlando Magic. The team will serve as host. The Magic were awarded the All-Star Game on May 4, 2010 in an announcement by Commissioner David Stern. It’s the second time that Orlando has hosted the All-Star Game, the first time being in 1992 in the Orlando Arena, the Magic’s previous home arena.
This game will be the 61st edition of the National Basketball Association All-Star Game.
But there are plenty of activities going on leading up to Sunday. Starting today, the NBA is transforming the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive into a hub for pre-game activities. Tomorrow, the activities shift to Amway, including the All-Star Saturday Night pre-game event.
The price of tickets has been one of the biggest complaints so far, something Mayor Dyer acknowledged during the City Commission meeting last month.
“How do you get tickets? It’s hard, I can tell you that,” Dyer acknowledged.  “The best option for residents are the jam sessions on International Drive. Those jam sessions are a lot of fun.”
The All-Star Game Watch Party at Lake Eola offers another option.  The event is free and there will be food and beverages available to be purchased. The Lake Eola Park amphitheater is at 101 N. Rosalind Ave. in downtown Orlando. Because parking in downtown Orlando either means fighting for a parking space or continuously feeding a parking meter, a free LYMMO Circulator bus will be available on Sunday for downtown residents. There’s also parking available at garages other than the Orange County Library Garage at 112 E. Pine St., the mayor’s office noted. Parking and LYMMO stop information can be found on the city’s website at www.cityoforlando.net.
Not surprisingly, because tens of thousands of people are expected to flock into downtown Orlando for the NBA All-Star Weekend, the city’s transportation and planning experts have come up with a detailed transportation plan that’s supposed to ease traffic congestion and offer more options for pedestrians. Church Street, home to the Amway Center, has been closed to traffic between Hughey Avenue and Division Avenue since 6 a.m. on Monday, and stays that way through the entire All-Star Weekend.
Lymmo bus hours have been extended to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 a.m. on Sunday.
The city is also encouraging people heading downtown for All-Star related events to plan ahead and give themselves some extra time to accommodate road closures and heavier traffic.
Not all of the events revolve around sports. On Friday at 2 p.m., the city is taking part in the NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, 639 W. Central Boulevard. More than 250 volunteers, including NBA guests, celebrities and All-Star participants, will be on hand to transform the Coalition facility campus into a brighter place.
Volunteers will be given the opportunity to prep and paint different living spaces for the homeless people staying there, prepare meals for them, refurbish the playground area and walkway to the park, and do some landscaping work.
Then at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Universal CityWalk’s Rising Star, Mayor Dyer will join former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and NBA basketball superstars Lebron James and Chris Bosh to commend the “Hoop Heros” and sponsors at the 2nd Annual After-School All-Stars Hoop Heroes Salute benefiting Orlando’s ASAS program. The event will honor James, Bosh and other NBA players who have donated funds to ASAS through the Hoop Heroes initiative.
On Saturday at 9 a.m., Mayor Dyer will welcome attendees of the 2012 NBA All-Star Breakfast hosted by international sports ministry Athletes in Action. The NBA All-Star Breakfast honors NBA personalities who are role models both on and off the court. This year’s award recipients include the vice president of the Orlando Magic, Pat Williams, and philanthropist David Robinson.
That event will be held at The Swan Hotel, 1200 Epcot Resorts Boulevard, at Walt Disney World, followed at 11 a.m. by the All-Star Gospel Brunch Extravaganza at Walt Disney World’s Yacht Club. A silent auction will take place to benefit the HELPPPPing Hands Foundation as well as other Central Florida non-profit organizations.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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