Miami looking to other cities' experience with older, underused arenas
By Susan Stabley
Ideas for the future of Miami Arena might be found in a study of 17 cities that are homes to dueling arenas. The study will be presented at the next meeting of the Miami Sport and Entertainment Authority on May 27.
Accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, which works for the MSEA, is performing the study, which is still under way.
"We surveyed some of the other authorities about what they have done with their 'orphan arenas,' " said the firm's Richard Berkowitz.
The study tracks how the 17 other cities, such as Indianapolis and Philadelphia, have handled old arenas that have fallen in the shadow of newer ones.
The 16,600-seat Miami Arena, built in 1989, has been struggling since the loss of the NBA's Miami Heat and the NHL's Florida Panthers to newer venues.
Getting information has been tricky, he said. Many of the cities have not been cooperative in divulging numbers connected to failing venues, he said.
Some of the information presented will detail how some of the cities have turned to minor-league sporting events for older arenas. Other alternate uses include circuses or tractor pulls, he said - "stuff that's not profitable in the larger sense."
On the other hand, that gives event producers a more affordable venue and provides less-expensive entertainment options for residents.
Miami Arena has recently been host to the Billboard Latin Music Awards show and moonlights as a rehearsal hall for pop stars or for commercial or film shoots.
It's a matter of philosophy, Mr. Berkowitz said. Cities are faced with the decision of whether they want to provide facilities for those types of uses. A good benchmark is if the older arena is used for a third of the year.
But does Miami Arena face the danger of being razed? That's what many of the cities studied have done with their older arenas, he said.
"If you can't have it pay for itself, the operating expenses, then the board has to decide if that use is consistent with the needs of the city," he said. Compared to other cities' older arenas, Miami Arena is younger and in better health, he said.
Miami Arena is now home to a minor-league hockey team, the Miami Manatees. Mr. Berkowitz estimated that the team uses the arena for 30-40 dates and that the arena is in use for about 100 days a year.