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Heat Write to County Over AmericanAirlines Arena Naming Rights Talks

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat wrote to Miami-Dade County officials this week, addressing the relationship between the two sides after the county’s decision to take over AmericanAirlines Arena naming rights talks. 

In October, Miami-Dade County exercised an option in its agreement with the Heat that allows it to takeover naming-rights negotiations from the team. As part of that agreement, the county will have pay the Heat $2 million annually beginning in 2020–effectively covering lost naming-rights revenue for the team–but can keep any naming-rights proceeds beyond $2 million.

With the current naming-rights deal expiring at the end of 2019, county officials have contended that exercising the naming-rights negotiations option put it in a better position to collect more revenue from the arena. That, in turn, would give it more of an advantage in what has sometimes been criticized as a too team-friendly deal with the Heat.

However, the Heat recently tried to emphasize its efforts to build a strong relationship with the county. In a letter sent to Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday, Heat business operations president Eric Woolworth noted the level of investment that the organization has put into maintaining the county-owned AmericanAirlines Arena, and said that the team has tried to be a good partner with the county. More from the AP

The Heat hoped for a collaborative effort on the next naming-rights deal, saying both sides would benefit. County officials did not make that offer.

“I tend to take for granted that everyone in South Florida knows how the Arena came to be, what its purpose is, how we operate it, what kind of partners we have been for the County, and what we have come to mean in the community,” Woolworth wrote. “I see now that this is a flawed approach.”

The current naming-rights deal with American Airlines Arena, which has been worth about $2.1 million annually, ends in 2019. The relationship between the Heat and the county is complex; the team paid the construction costs for the arena, but the facility is owned by the county, and some lawmakers have bristled over the years about how they believe the arrangement is too team-friendly. The Heat say that notion is unfounded….

Woolworth wrote that Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and his family have never taken a cent out of the arena or the team — “they are the kind of owners every community and every fan base wants,” Woolworth said — and pointed out that the team has spent nearly $94 million to maintain the arena, well over the $18 million that the county mandated be spent to this point in the lease agreement.

The original naming-rights agreement was struck with American Airlines prior to the venue’s opening in 1999. It calls for the airline to pay roughly $2.1 million annually as part of a 20-year sponsorship.

RELATED STORIES: Miami-Dade Takes Over AmericanAirlines Arena Naming Rights Talks

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