Of those four, only Miami also hosts yearly major tournaments in golf (the Cadillac golf tournament at the Trump Doral) and tennis (the Sony Open that began Wednesday in Key Biscayne).
Throw in Miami’s tie for a record 10 Super Bowls, and “the breadth of sports offerings in Miami year-round is probably second to none,’’ Bartel said. Why doesn’t the fan base show up consistently? Bartel cited the influx of relative newcomers and the team loyalties they bring with them.
“We have that issue that people must adopt their hometown teams,” said Bartel, managing director of the Hamptons Group investments firm in Coral Gables. “When you come to Miami as an adult, you probably have already grown up as a fan of the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees.”
At the moment, Miami has clearly adopted basketball as its sport of choice. Tickets for the Miami Heat routinely top out at $3,000 courtside, and $80 for the top rows at the AA Arena. The best winning streak in franchise history and the presence of the hottest star in basketball have made the Heat a top draw in Miami and around the country.
At home, the Heat is pushing beyond the AA Arena’s official capacity of 19,600 in official attendance figures and reporting an average occupancy of 102 percent this season, according to espn.com. That’s the third best in the NBA, and the best for the Heat since the successful 2006 championship run.
But the Heat has seen lean years, too. Sales for non-premium seats dropped 30 percent from its peak during the 2006 championship season, to 2010, the last season before James joined the team, according to financial figures on file with Miami-Dade County. The team has paid no rent in its county-owned arena despite the profitable Three Kings era because the facility still runs a deficit from the non-Shaq years, according to the arena reports.
Heat executives declined to be interviewed for this article, but last spring team president Eric Woolworth noted: “We are in a cyclical business.”
For Lipman, the ticket broker, the Heat’s rise demonstrated just how fully Miami can embrace a winning team. His company resells premium NBA tickets around the country, but the top dollars consistently have come from Miami since the Three Kings era began in 2010.
“Miami is unique. When the team is good, the disposable income is there and [locals are] going to spend more money than anyone, including New York and Los Angeles,’’ he said.
“Miami has the money. But they only support winners,” he continued. “They’re phenomenal fair-weather fans.”
This version was revised to fix a misspelling of the last name of Lee Igel, an associate professor of sports business and management at the NYU-SCPS Tisch Center.