Late last year, in an attempt to renew its lease with Miami-Dade County at the AmericanAirlines Arena, the Miami Heat commissioned an analysis of its economic impact on the city of Miami. The study concluded that the team helped to bring in $1.4 billion each year, including 21,000 jobs for South Florida residents, as well as intangible benefits like "civic pride."
"You are for sure seeing a revival of downtown Miami, which has corresponded with the rise of the AmericanAirlines Arena and the Heat," says Miami Herald business reporter Doug Hanks. He says there aren't direct examples of economic development as a result of the Heat, but agrees that the basketball team's presence is a benefit for the city.
"I think the question is: What kind of city does not have a professional basketball team?" says Hanks. "If this goes away, what does that do to Miami? What's that do to morale? What's that do to the cache of the brand?"
Hanks says having an NBA star like LeBron James has taken the city to a different level.
"I think Miami really aspires to be seen as a top-tier city," Hanks says. "It's seen as the place where the fabulous come to play and live, and to have the hottest athlete in sports say on television, with much drama, 'I'm going to bring my talents to South Beach,' that really plays into what is Miami's pitch to the world, which is 'Listen, we're a hot city. We're sophisticated, this is where the celebrities come to play.' That's what LeBron James really brings to Miami."