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October 23, 2013

Food at Miami Heat games gets an upgrade – for fans in the expensive seats

For the Miami Heat’s highest-paying fans, nachos are not worthy, pizza slices are pedestrian and quesadillas are comical.

For the Miami Heat’s highest-paying fans, nachos are not worthy, pizza slices are pedestrian and quesadillas are comical.

The refined palates of the 300 or so Flagship-seat ticketholders – current market value $61,252 per seat per season – will be tempted by saffron-spiked lobster paella, tomahawk rib-eye steaks garnished with local microgreens and blood-orange flan during home games at AmericanAirlines Arena when the NBA regular season begins next week.

Those are a few of the haute dishes chefs rolled out Tuesday for a preview of the arena’s two Flagship Lounges, which underwent $3.5 million facelifts during the off-season. Out with the drab grays, tired furniture and worn carpets; in with a sleek, modern design that feels one part frequent-flier airport club, one part glitzy South Beach restaurant.

Along with décor upgrades, the lounges have improved cocktails and food, with options that feature local produce and creations from guest chefs like Michael Lewis of Zuma and Dena Marino of MC Kitchen, who will cook at various games this season.

“We wanted to bring almost a pop-up restaurant feel on the nights when we’re showcasing other chefs,” said Tim Arnold, the arena’s director of operations for food-service provider Levy Restaurants.

The lounges are accessible only to those with courtside or Flagship seats – the two priciest vantage points in the house. Tickets for Flagship seats, which are sold out and have a wait list that’s 30-deep, often fetch between $750 and $5,000 for a Heat game on the secondary market; courtside seats go even higher: Ticket brokers were getting close to $20,000 a pop for last season’s NBA Finals.

All that dough gets you a sweet view of the action and VIP underground parking – but you still have to shell out for the grub.

Buffet-style dinner at a Flagship Lounge runs from $64 to $105, depending on the night’s spread, without alcohol. Sort of makes $20 for a beer and a slice of pizza sound affordable.

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