The Miami Heat owe Miami taxpayers millions in cost overruns to capital improvement projects on the American Airlines Arena. So says Miami-Dade Inspector General Chris Mazzella, in an audit report that hasn't been publicly released yet but which sources close to the review have confirmed to Riptide.
Mazzella has been pouring over the arena's financial statements since last June. His investigation follows New Times report that despite getting millions in taxpayer subsidies and raking in a fortune, the team has repeatedly finessed its books to avoid sharing any revenue with the County.
Mazzella's soon-to-be released report finds that Basketball Properties Ltd., the company that operates the arena, owes Dade County more than $3 million for the construction overruns.
The company has rejected that conclusion, sources say, and insisted the costs are covered under its operating agreement with the county.
We've put in calls to Mazzella and the County to comment on the record about the pending report, but haven't heard back yet.
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That County agreement has proven to be rather sweet for the Heat and team owner Mickey Arison over the years. Back in 1997, the County agreed to swap $38 million worth of bayfront property and to pay $6.4 million annually for 30-years to help maintain the new arena after Arison threatened to move the Heat to Broward County.
Although the agreement calls for the Heat to share 40 percent of all profits over a $14 million benchmark, the County has never seen a dime of shared revenue, even after LeBron and company brought in a record $60 million in revenue last year.
That's because Arison's company moves cash around to avoid reporting any excess profits, such as in 2009-10 when Basketball Properties Ltd advanced almost $14 million to the team and then reported the money as a financial loss in the ledgers.