Best Local Landmark Miami 1999 - American Airlines Arena
Sport utility vehicles, colored contact lenses, designer cell phones -- all trappings of this town's torrid affair with flash. We'll mortgage our souls to almighty plastic for an opportunity to show off. No surprise, then, that the prospect of a shiny new waterfront sports arena lit us up like a nine-year-old at Christmas. Indulgent Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas gladly kicked in millions to help the Miami Heat and American Airlines bring us a facility other cities will envy well into the third millennium: hip Arquitectonica design, outdoor café, elevated bridge to Bayside for easy-access shopping. Sure those hotel and transportation taxes might sting down the road, but for now a little nose-thumbing is in order. Who else's overpaid athletes can practice with a view of the bay? Who else's big spenders can retire from an evening of courtside seats and fine dining to an exclusive underground parking garage? The comically close-by Miami Arena creates an air of extravagant excess, sulking in the AAArena's shadow like last year's Ford Explorer, set aside to accommodate the new Expedition. Excess, even a bit of waste, is acceptable because, as any native can tell you, it's not how much you spend but how you look that matters. And the new AAArena looks like a million bucks. Make that 295 million.