Lets assume American Airlines ... says, Its been awesome. We hope you keep the plane on the roof. But were done, Lopez said, referring to the jet outlined in lights atop the arena. The county immediately has to come up with $2 million.
E.J. Narcise, whose firm helped negotiate naming-rights deals for FedEx Field near Washington, D.C., and Reliant Park in Houston, said the $2 million paid by American is modest for todays market.
Weve done collegiate arenas that are close to $2 million a year, said Narcise, a principal at Team Services LLC in Rockville, Md. With James playing there, the arena could probably get as much as $3.5 million a year and would be able to get at least $2 million without him, Narcise said.
I dont think theyre going to be in any danger, regardless, he said.
The teams pursuit of more public assistance comes on the heels of the Miami Dolphins failed attempt to win higher hotel taxes to fund a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium. The defeat was in part blamed on lingering ill will from the 2009 vote by Miami-Dade commissioners to spend hotel and property taxes to build the Marlins a new ballpark in Little Havana.
Unlike the other two teams, the Heat has provided Miami with championship runs in recent years and it has made downtown Miami the undisputed power center for professional basketball since James, Chris Bosh and Heat veteran Dwyane Wade were crowned the Three Kings in 2010.
The Heat commissioned an economic-impact study that had the arena adding about $1.5 billion a year to the local economy. Schulman, the CFO, said the Heat plan to spend $10 million improving the arena this year, a record amount and evidence of the growing expenses at the facility that debuted on New Years Eve in 1999.
We are forward-thinking here because we dont want to be in a Miami Arena situation, he said. If you wait until the last minute, thats what happens.
With James departure for another team a possibility once his contract expires next season, the Heat could see the eventual return to the mediocre ticket sales that marked the years without the arenas super-stars: James and Shaquille ONeal, who played for the Heat between 2004 and 2008.
The talks come as the arena seemed on track to issue its first payment to Miami-Dade after 13 years of occupying the facility in a rent-free deal. While the arrangement includes the yearly subsidy, it also allows Miami-Dade to collect 40 percent of all arena profits above $14 million. But before the arena pays the county, it can deduct losses from past years.
The windfall in ticket sales after James arrived finally wiped out past losses last year. In 2012, arena profits hit $16.4 million, according to records filed with the county. If not for the past losses, the arena would have paid Miami-Dade almost $1 million.
Revenues were strained last year given the shortened season from an NBA labor dispute, so the 2013 season has the potential for more dollars. But team executives Friday said it was too early to say how much profit would remain once the arenas budget year ends on June 30.
Miami-Dade pays the Heat out of hotel taxes, and those are used to cover debt payments on Marlins Park and fund museums and other cultural institutions. Jennifer Glazer-Moon, the countys budget chief, said this year Miami-Dade also shifted about $25 million in hotel taxes to fund the parks department as a way to ease pressure on general funds used to pay for police and other basic services. While hotel taxes are growing by as much as 7 percent a year, demands for the extra money have, too.
Other people are asking us for this all the time, she said.