What a difference an NBA championship doesnt make.
The Miami Heat saw ticket and concession revenues drop during its title-winning season, thanks to a contract dispute within the league that kept the AmericanAirlines Arena and all other NBA courts idle for about two months, according to financial data made public this week.
A two-percent decline in revenue at the county-owned arena helps explain why the Heats parent company finished its 12th season without paying rent to Miami-Dade. Thats despite the arena generating about $62 million in revenue, not counting licensing and television dollars earned by the Miami Heat itself.
Under the terms of the deal Heat owner Micky Arison negotiated with county officials in the late 1990s, the Heat organization agreed to finance construction of the $213 million arena in exchange for being able to keep all arena profits up to a certain amount. Profit-sharing triggers have never been reached. But the arena came closer than ever last season when LeBron James led the team to its second championship title in June.
It was a fantastic year on the court, said Sammy Schulman, chief financial officer for the Heat Group. We couldnt be happier.
Schulman said its a mistake to focus on what the arena pays Miami-Dade, since the downtown arena is a focus of international media attention and a major draw for locals throughout the year. He pointed to an economic-impact study the team recently commissioned that says the arena adds more than $1 billion to the economy each year.
Everybody is concentrating on how much revenue-sharing there is for the county, Schulman said. The story here is, what kind of citizen are we?
The Heats rent-free arrangement has brought scrutiny. On Wednesday, the countys Inspector General issued a final report from an investigation that concluded the Heat organization owes the county about $4 million.
Most of the disputed money stems from how the Heat deducted capital expenses from its profit, although some is also tied to lobbying fees and political contributions the IGs office claims should not be considered as business costs. County administrators disagreed, concluding the Heat does not owe any money. Both the county and the Heat agreed to adopt financial-reporting changes recommended by the report.
We wanted to make this arrangement better for the county, Inspector General Christopher Mazzella said.
Each year, the corporation that manages the arena files financial statements with the county, and those records were made public this week. The numbers offer a look at how the arena makes money, with an emphasis on the big dollars that come from courtside seats and VIP lounges.
Among the tidbits:
• Revenue from courtside areas and other VIP spots fell short of projections by about $5 million, to $28 million.
• The arena had to give back about $2 million in sponsorship dollars thanks to the shortened season, which began about two months late. Each team had to cancel eight home games out of 41 that were planned before NBA owners locked out players in a contract dispute.
• Courtside views remain a lucrative enterprise for the arena. The 480 seats on the sidelines and the first 10 rows in the arena generated $18 million in revenue, about $2 million short of projections before the season was shortened.