Despite Dwyane Wade’s departure and a dismal start to the season, the Heat’s sellout streak, the NBA’s second-longest, remains intact.
But that tells only half the story.
Even though the Heat has sold all tickets to 244 games in a row and 300 consecutive home games overall including playoffs --- a streak that began in LeBron James’ first game with Miami in October 2010 --- there have been hundreds and hundreds of empty seats visible in the Heat’s first six regular-season home games of the post-Wade era.
What’s more, fans are struggling to get face value -- or in some cases, anything close to face value -- when they try to re-sell their seats in the secondary market.
“You can’t even give the tickets away,” said season-ticket hold Gil Betancourt, a Coral Gables realtor. “It seems like nobody cares.”
Some Heat season-ticket holders, “a significant number,” according to the team -- are in the final season of three-year contracts. That’s one reason the Heat has managed to extend its sellout streak – which ranks second in the league behind only Dallas.
Betancourt said before James left the Heat in 2014, the team offered him a deal: If he made a three-year commitment to renew his season tickets, his per-game price would drop from $54 in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons to $42 last season and this season, the final year of his contract.
Now the Heat must convince those fans to renew. Heat executive vice president Michael McCullough said it hasn’t been determined if season-ticket prices will change but fans will be approached with options “very shortly.”
The Heat doesn’t disclose its season-ticket number, but Betancourt believes some people with expiring contracts “are definitely going to part ways. I want to renew, but I share my seats with a friend and he doesn’t want to renew. A lot of people who jumped on the bandwagon for LeBron see it as no longer an investment. With how crazy traffic is around the arena, and sometimes they want $40 a game to park, it's a hassle to even go to the game.”
McCullough said the team isn’t concerned by the size of the crowds so far: “Our fans have been great. Our sellout streak remains intact.”
Asked if fan turnout at the 19,600-seat arena is about what the Heat expected this season with a revamped roster, McCullough said: “It's hard to say. We want to try to get as many seats sold as possible. When people buy tickets, we want them to use them. When people do not use them, we need to find out why that is.”
Wade’s departure and the Heat’s slow start (Miami is 1-5 at home and 2-8 overall) would appear to be two obvious reasons, though McCullough didn’t mention either. Instead, he noted that it traditionally is “a little more difficult for us” to sell games early in the season.
Steve Paskind, a retired Bingo hall operator from Davie who owns four season tickets, mentioned another reason: “Miami is an event town. The team has no name players. The crowd for the Utah game on Saturday was terrible. I was shocked.”
Paskind pays $172 per ticket per game for four very good lower-bowl midcourt seats in section 106. He said NBA commissioner Adam Silver sits in that area when he attends games.
But Paskind said he has been unable to re-sell any of his seats this season, even at heavily discounted rates, except for Wade’s return to Miami with the Bulls, a game that he sold for “a little above” the $172 face value.
For the other home games, he cut his asking price to $100 and still couldn’t sell them.
“Any other season, I could get $400 a ticket for these seats,” he said. “If Wade were here, I guarantee you can sell these tickets. People came to see Wade.”
Re-selling tickets also has been challenging for fans sitting in the upper bowl, such as Betancourt, who sits in section 313.
He dropped his asking price from $42 to $20 this season but “I haven’t sold one ticket this year, and I’ve tried to resell my tickets for three or four games this year. I see people taking losses on each game, trying to get rid of them.
“I am trying to find someone to come with myself and my girlfriend to sit in two other seats that I have, and I can't even find someone, let alone sell them.”
Conversely, “last year, I could at least get face value for my tickets,” he said. “When we had LeBron, you got maybe $110 a ticket for some games. Those were the good times.”
Doug Livingston, a Miami-based Italian bread distributor who owns lower-bowl season-tickets in section 106, said he has no interest in re-selling his seats but said the season-ticket holders who sit near him are trying to dump their tickets more than ever before.
“These are the smallest crowds I’ve seen here,” he said before Tuesday’s Hawks said. “This is the deadest I have ever seen getting into the arena.”
But Paskind said: “I don’t think fans will give up their [season tickets] because the team is going to be good again” eventually.
For some interesting player reaction after Tuesday’s Heat loss, including Dion Waiters being fed up with lack of calls, please click here.
For an update on Justise Winslow’s wrist injury, please click here.
And for a look at why people really need to stop asking Tyler Johnson for money, please click here.