The Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approved a lease extension for the Miami Heat last night, agreeing to increase annual operating subsidies to the team from $6.4 million a year to $8.5 million a year starting in 2030, in exchange for Heat owner Micky Arison immediately starting to pay $1 million a year in “donations” to the county’s parks department. It’s the first major sports subsidy deal approved in Miami since the Miami Marlins deal that everyone in the city violently hates.
I’ve gotten a fair bit of attention for calling this deal a “reasonable” price to pay for five more years of the Heat, though if you read what I wrote, I actually said that it was “one of the more reasonable deals,” which is grading on a pretty severe curve. (I’m clearly going to have to watch my words more carefully from now on.) In a conversation with the Miami Herald’s Doug Hanks on Monday, I called the lease extension, with its overall cost to the county of about $6 million in present value “resoundingly meh,” which is an assessment I’ll stand behind.
In fact, it looks like the deal if anything got a bit meher at the last minute. One of the reasons I praised the revised deal with faint damns was that it reversed course on earlier plans for the county to hand over to the team its future naming rights to the arena. But now it appears that the county has partially reversed course on that reversal of course:
The current contract lets Miami-Dade sell the rights itself once the American Airlines sponsorship resets in 2020. The new deal preserves that right, but also sets up a system where the county can let the Heat sell the rights itself and then negotiate a split with Miami-Dade. A county stadium consultant, Carl Hirsch of Stafford Sports, said American’s current $2.1 million-a-year deal is about half what NBA sponsorships go for today, and Suarez characterized the possible split as a needless giveaway.
“We don’t need to share that with anyone else,” he said. “I think we are giving away a lot in this deal.”
I’m not actually sure what that “negotiate a split means” — that if Arison can get more money for the stadium name, they can keep a finder’s fee for himself? But it’s a potential added gift to the Heat either way, even if only another small one.
According to one county commissioner, though, no amount of subsidy is too high a price to pay for the blessing that is the Heat:
“There is not enough money out there to spend to get the publicity the Heat brings this community,” Commissioner Bruno Barreiro said before casting one of the 10 votes in favor of the agreement.
Spoken like a guy who gets his campaign funds from stadium contractors.