Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Miami-Dade Arena 601 Biscayne Boulevard Miami, FL 33132
Year Opened: 1999
The Heat Is On
This 2019-2020 season marks the 20th Anniversary of the Miami Heat (or HEAT as preferred by the team) in their present home at AmericanAirlinesArena (that is the official stylized name and not a misspelling on our part) along Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami. The arena opened on December 1999, with a concert by local star Gloria Estefan. The arena has a capacity of 19,600, including 2,105 club seats, 80 luxury suites and 76 private boxes. The arena seating bowl has a definite Heat theme, as it features a cascade of red and orange colors. The scoreboard is also very distinctive, not for its size, but for its interpretation of the sun with rays of light extending from the interior.
Note: The arena name changed to Kaseya Center in April 2023.
Food & Beverage 5
Miami is a melting pot of cultures with a heavy influence of Latin and Caribbean populations. This is certainly reflected in the food and concessions program at AmericanAirlinesArena. The facility offers 36 different vendors with 77 locations spread out through the arena. Several stands offer the standard arena fare. These include Chicken Ciao (chicken tenders), Prime Grill (burgers, grilled chicken), Papa John’s (pizza), Downtown Dogs (hot dogs), Family Fare (typical arena fare in child size portions) and Healthy Fit (veggie burgers, salads and gluten free foods). Local and more ethnically diverse dishes are available at PB Burgers (gourmet burgers), Bodega Taqueria y Tequila (Mexican street food), Sergio’s Cuban Café’ and Grill (Cuban Cuisine), Miami Smoker’s BBQ, The Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Kuenko (salmon, tuna and veggie bowls) and Baja Bao (Asian fusion). AmericanAirlinesArena is experimenting with cashless commerce in certain areas of the arena. Purchasers can use their credit or debit cards only at these sites. It is hoped to speed up the lines.
The HEAT is by far the most successful franchise in South Florida since the club was founded in 1988. They have won the NBA titles on three occasions (2006, 2012 and 2013), been Conference Champions five times and Division Champions 13 times . Today they are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Attending a HEAT game is as much of a social occasion as attending a basketball game. While seeing the red-hot HEAT compete on the court, you are just as likely to be seeing an “A List” of celebrities sitting courtside. While the sight lines to the court are excellent, the social amenities offered at AmericanAirlinesArena are just as impressive. There is a plaza located on the east side of the arena, which overlooks Biscayne Bay and features a bar and plenty of tables and chairs to enjoy socializing before, during and after the game. You will feel the Miami vibe before you ever enter the arena, as it features the white exterior and large amounts of glass that are so prevalent in the architecture in the South Florida area. Its location overlooking Biscayne Bay also adds to the uniqueness of the space, as very few NBA arenas feature a waterfront view. AmericanAirlinesArena features seating for the general public in the 100, 200, and 400 levels of the facility, with the 200-level serving as the club and luxury suites level of the seating bowl. The 400 level of seats are only found in the end zone area of the seating bowl.
The home of the HEAT is in downtown Miami along beautiful Biscayne Bay. It is surrounded by several developments such as the Bayside Marketplace entertainment and shopping complex and a wide variety of hotels featuring dramatic views of the bay. The Frost Museum of Science is located virtually next door. South Beach and its lively club and bar scene are just a short drive across the causeway from the arena. Speaking of driving, traffic is also the main drawback to the area, as it is congested night and day, regardless of whether there is an event going on or not. The city’s MetroRail system can help you avoid the gridlock and will also allow you to avoid the high parking fees in the area.
South Florida sports fans have been starved for a winning program as the Dolphins, Marlins, Panthers and the University of Miami programs have been a disappointment in recent years. They have found a consistent winner in the HEAT and support the team with a passion. They are loud, and they proudly wear the HEAT colors to every game. The noise in the arena can be deafening at times, as the crowd becomes the “sixth man” on the court during scoring streaks or when the team needs to make a defensive stand. In addition to the game, fans come for the social aspect of the event as well. HEAT games are a party, with DJ’s on hand to keep the music going, celebrity sightings abound, and high fashion is the dress code for the night. The fans love to mingle in the many social areas built into the arena.
While there is a Biscayne Boulevard exit directly off I-395 near the arena, an automobile is typically the worst way to access AmericanAirlinesArena. The arena itself only has parking dedicated to season ticket holders. The nearest large lot to the arena is found at the Bayside Marketplace, which charges a small fortune for its spaces, as do the other lots in the area. Traffic is always heavy on Biscayne Boulevard, as the presence of Biscayne Bay on its eastern side rules out any other routes to reach the arena from the east or the south. For more info on MetroRail go to www.8.miamidade.gov/trainspotation/metrorail.page. Fortunately, the city of Miami offers a public transit system designed to get you to the AmericanAirlinesArena both swiftly and economically. Simply take the MetroRail train to the Government Center Station ($2.25 fare) and transfer to the MetroMover Omni Loop (free of charge) taking it to the Park West Station. From there, simply cross Biscayne Boulevard to the arena. The HEAT also has a partnership with the Uber ridesharing service.
Return on Investment 4
There are general pricing ranges for each level of the seating bowl. The HEAT uses a dynamic pricing program that changes for games featuring the more popular opponents. The 400 level seats list price at $15 – $30, the 300 level seats go for between $50 and $80 and 100 level seats go for $80 or more depending on location near the court. Concession prices are above average for an NBA arena. The parking situation makes this an unattractive option, as the parking lots surrounding the arena can charge $40 or more on event nights. A much cheaper option is to take the MetroRail / Metromover combo which will cost you only $2.25 each way and deliver you a block from the arena.
AmericanAirlinesArena is the correct spelling of the arena’s name. This is to set it apart from several other arenas that have naming rights with the airline, such as the arena in Dallas that serves as the home of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars. Among the other events that have taken place at the AmericanAirlinesArena are both WCW and UFC matches, the MTV Video Music Awards and concerts by Cher, Britney Spears, Shakira, Adele, Katy Perry and many more. AmericanAirlinesArena only trails the Staples Center in LA and Madison Square Garden in New York City for the number of celebrity sightings in its courtside seats. The team holds a Noche Latina Night and dons their El HEAT jerseys each season in recognition of the support it receives from the Hispanic community. The rafters of the arena are filled with banners recognizing the team’s various championship years, as well as celebrating the careers of Chris Bosh, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning with their retired jersey numbers. Banners also recognize HEAT players who have won gold medals in the Olympic Games.
American Airlines has decided not to renew their naming rights agreement which expires December 31, 2019. At the time of this review the arena was still known as AmericanAirlinesArena. A new naming rights partner has not been identified yet. Regardless of the name on the building, the facility is one of the most unique arenas in the NBA, both architecturally and its promotion of the local team’s brand. It embraces the Latin heritage found in the Miami area, both through its concessions program and the music played during lulls in the action. The HEAT are the most successful sports franchise in the South Florida area and a trip to a basketball game at the facility makes a great evening addition while vacationing in Miami.