Columns

Miami Heat Owner Micky Arison Still Won't Share AA Arena Profits With Taxpayers

​With a slew of national musical acts

filling seats, and LeBron James and Chris Bosh propelling the Miami

Heat to the NBA Finals, the American Airlines Arena brought in a

record-breaking $60 million in revenue in 2011. Yet for the 13th

straight year, the Heat won't be sharing any of those profits with

Miami-Dade taxpayers -- you know, the ones who footed the bill to

build the damn place.



The Miami Marlins' ballpark

boondoggle has drawn understandable outrage, but this latest slight

to Dade residents shows the deal with Heat owner Micky Arison is just

as sick. The Carnival Cruise Lines chairman essentially takes advantage of a

loophole so he never has to share a nickel with voters who built his

bayfront palace.


Under a 1997 construction agreement, the county gave away $38 million of land so Arison could erect the $213 million venue, plus it OKed a $6.4 million annual subsidy for operating the arena for the next 30 years.

In return, Arison's subsidiary -- Basketball Properties, Ltd. -- would pay the county 40 percent of all profits over $14 million.

Guess what? The arena always falls short of the magic number.

According to Arison, not even last season's playoff run, which helped the Triple A generate $15 million more than it had earned in 2010, boosted team profits above $14 million.

Even beyond the NBA, the arena had a great year. Industry publication Pollstar ranks the American Airlines Arena seventh in the nation and 18th in the world, with 340,000 tickets sold from January through September of last year.

But Arison, via Basketball Properties, claims the arena is an extremely expensive place to run. Last year the Heat reported $47.8 million in operating expenses, resulting in only $13.2 million in profit. Those costs included "depreciation and amortization" that ate up $12 million. In fact, "depreciation and amortization" -- what corporations define as the loss in value of its fixed assets, such as kitchen equipment or computers -- has somehow gobbled up $55 million of the Heat's revenue for the past five years.

We phoned Basketball Properties' chief financial officer, Samuel Schulman, to find out what exactly has lost value at the arena. Schulman did not return our phone call.

So we decided to ask Arison himself -- who for the past 16 years refused to answer any New Times inquiries about him -- via Twitter. Here's his reply:

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.