What’s Next in Miami?

By Evan Weiner

Now that LeBron has left the 305 what is next, not for Micky Arison, Pat Riley and the Heat organization, but for the Miami sports world? Miami’s NBA franchise probably will struggle to get near a playoff spot and that is not good news for corporation who bought luxury boxes and club seats and made sure their clients ate at arena restaurants. It cannot be good for FOX Sun Sports or the local radio affiliate. The ratings will drop although in FOX Sun Sports case, the subscriber fees aren’t going away so the hit will be in the local advertising side which isn’t as significant as the number of subscribers who pay for the service whether they watch it or not. Miami’s radio partner though may see a drop in ad sales which will impact the station and maybe cost someone a job.

There figures to be a drop off in attendance at games although with the way club seats and luxury boxes are sold, those seats could still be filled. There could be less foot traffic around the arena but there aren’t too many businesses near the building anyway and the owner Micky Arison would rather his guests spend their money inside the building not at nearby establishments.

The pier that Arison’s cruise ship company uses next to the arena will not be impacted. The place is always packed.

Miami has lost a glamour name in LeBron and “The Big Three” and that will impact the franchise this year. But Miami is still stuck with Arison and the Heat’s welfare payments for years. But that’s okay if you believe Tony Villamil, the CEO of the Washington Economics Group, who told a local CBS Miami TV station that Arison’s basketball team and the arena created 20,000 jobs annually.  Somehow the economics’ group CEO figured that Arison created more jobs than the arena seats.

Follow Villamil’s logic for a moment.

“(The) team is directly responsible for 10,000 jobs, including team employees and arena workers, and indirectly responsible for another 11,000 jobs by hiring local companies to support its operation and maintain the facility,” Villamil claimed after studying the economic impact of the Miami Heat in 2012 on Miami. What Villamil left out was empty storefront not far from the arena and empty condos in nearby high rises.

That 10,000 figure seem a bit baffling.

After all, in 2013-14, Arison employed 16 players, one head coach, three assistant coaches, one athletic trainer, one strength coach, two assistant coaches for player development, a team mascot, 23 dancers, front officer personnel, office people and broadcasters. Added all together maybe 200 people and sure people work in the arena but it’s hard to believe there are 9,800 people employed in the building. The 11,000 people near the arena?  A major exaggeration but there is a silver lining here in Villamil’s dissertation. The boats in Biscayne Bay because people see it on TV during a Heat national broadcast or in games televised back to the visiting team’s home and people think immediately let’s go to Miami and get on a boat.

There is a slight problem with that thinking too. Miami’s NBA team plays mostly at night and there aren’t too many shots in the winter of boats sailing at night to show during Heat games. Besides the team plays indoors.

Still, Miami’s NBA team according to Villamil was worth $1.4 billion to the area economy.

But politicians buy into those kinds of assertions and think, “yeah he’s right, think of the economic impact” with only a small handful countering, “you are really expecting me to swallow this report and not laugh?”

Of course proving it dollar for dollar is another matter. Arison left an arena about six blocks away for this one about 15 years ago. Miami was stuck with a white elephant and debt service on a building that no longer exists.

Arison has a new lease which expires in 2035. If the franchise was so valuable to Miami Dade County, there is a significant question that should be asked. Why is Miami’s owner Arison $6.4 million annually through 2030 and $8.5 million annually over the last five years of the lease deal? After all Arison’s business allegedly pumps $1.4 billion into the local economy.

Miami’s politicians cannot help themselves when it comes to sports spending. The debt service on the Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlin’s relatively new park jumps into the nine figures annually in 2041. Miami politicians are facing severe budget woes and the sports teams are not doing anything for workers who could be fired in cutting spending.

The latest budget proposal would cut police, close a golf course, Zoo Miami hours would be shortened, and fares for Metrorail and Metrobus fare would increase. Librarian positions would be eliminated and funding for social services would be cut. But sports spending goes on and that might even include billionaire and New York real estate mogul Stephen Ross who desperately needs municipal funding for his football stadium in part to attract a Super Bowl.

Does the Super Bowl improve the local economy? No. In fact in Miami’s case it might hurt in that hotel rooms normally reserved for Snowbirds are not available and those tourists may end up elsewhere and stay elsewhere in the future. Miami is a tourist destination anyway, with or without the Super Bowl for those who don’t like winter.  Outside of Miami Dade, the owners of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers are looking for additional handouts from Sunrise and then there is David Beckham and Major League Soccer. Beckham and his associates are looking for a handout from Miami to build a soccer stadium somewhere. Miami cannot afford to run a city yet politicians are trying to figure out how to satisfy the soccer legend and his partners.

LeBron is gone but the bills from building state of the art sports facilities linger on.

Evan Weiner can be reached at evanjweiner@gmail.com. His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365489 ) and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-passion-how-coal/id595575002?mt=11 ), From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-peach-baskets-to-dance/id636914196?mt=11 ) and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/business-and-politics-of-sports-evan-weiner/1101715508?ean=2940044505094) and reissue of the 2010 e-book The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/business-politics-sports-selection/id771331977?mt=11 ) are available from e-book distributors globally. 2014 e-book, sports business 2010-14(https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/393652 ). The e-books are available from e-book distributors globally

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