American Airlines Arena gives Miami 2nd major sports venue


MIAMI -- There is a glamorous new landmark on the Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay -- thanks to the opening earlier this year of the city's second major sports and entertainment venue, the American Airlines Arena.

The new sports palace, home of the Miami Heat National Basketball Association team, is two blocks from the Miami Arena, which is the venue for the University of Miami Hurricanes' basketball games, circus performances and other activities.

The AAArena represents an alliance between two of South Florida's leading tourism movers and shakers: American Airlines and Micky Arison. In this case, Arison is not acting in his capacity as chairman of Carnival Corp. but as managing partner of the Miami Heat.

In an indirect connection with cruising, the new facility faces the Port of Miami on land that once was designated as the site of a new cruise terminal. The AAArena's connection with tourism is through American, the No. 1 carrier out of Miami Airport, whose AA symbol is emblazoned on the arena's roof, implanted on markings that form the silhouette of a Boeing 757.

The illuminated markings are visible day and night from aircraft using one of the main approach and takeoff guide paths at Miami Airport. American acquired the naming rights from the Miami Heat for 20 years at a cost of $2.1 million annually.

Besides having its signage throughout the building, including on the seating fabrics, American has made the most of its corporate presence by opening a ticket office in the structure.

The Miami Heat built and manages the $213 million arena for Miami-Dade County. The Heat guaranteed the financing for the $185 million in private bonds issued to build the facility, and the basketball team holds a 30-year lease to occupy the arena.

The AAArena was designed with basketball in mind, providing sight lines that are maximized for the sport. The arena's 20,000-seat capacity tops Miami Arena's 15,200 seats, which was built in 1988 as the original home for the Heat.

However, Arison sought a new arena not so much for the additional general seating as to multiply the number of lucrative corporate boxes and loges, considered the financial backbone of other major sports facilities.

The Miami Arena has 18 sky boxes. In comparison, the AAArena has four categories of lavish corporate seating, topped by the sold-out "star boxes," which sell for $400,000 to $500,000 per season, extending down to seasonal loge suites, which go for $10,000 per seat, sold in sets of four or six.

All told, 125 events are scheduled this year for the AAArena, including a Cher concert Feb. 21 and a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game March 11. Parts of the arena are still under construction, including two major restaurants: Bongos Cuban Cafe, to be operated by Gloria Estefan and her husband, and a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

The complex, across from the Bayside shopping complex on Biscayne Bay, also will have retail shopping. In addition, a local affiliate of NBC is planning to install a studio to originate broadcasting from AAArena.

AAArena Box Office
Phone: (786) 777-1240

Phone: (305) 358-5885

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