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Volume 24 No. 156


The Heat, which has “yet to pay Miami-Dade a dime in profits after 12 years at its bayfront arena, wants to extend its 30-year agreement with the county for another decade,” according to Patricia Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. The existing agreement for AmericanAirlines Arena “doesn’t expire until 18 years from now, in 2030.” But, as “permitted in the contract," Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth sent Mayor Carlos Gimenez a letter last week "asking the county to begin negotiations on two five-year extensions.” Heat Exec VP & CFO Sammy Schulman said, “We’re here. We’re a long-term partner. We’re not going anywhere.” The Heat’s title-winning season generated about $62M in revenue -- "bringing it closer than ever to the threshold that would require the team’s arena-operating arm to fork over some of the money to the county.” Miami-Dade, as part the county’s ‘97 deal with the Heat, “agreed to let the arena keep profits up to $14 million a year, with the county set to receive 40 percent of any additional profits.” The arena “ran a deficit through 2010.” All of the county terms “could be tweaked as part of the negotiations, though the county says it’s too early to say which provisions it will focus on.” Heat lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez, who is “close to Mayor Gimenez, called the profit-sharing provision ‘the elephant in the room.’” Lopez also said that the county “may not be in a position to continue providing an annual subsidy to the arena, which would put a greater burden on the team to maintain the facility” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/27).

The Indians' “long-held desire to put their luxury seating areas to new and better use has taken a clearer shape," as the team last month "cleared out 10 suites for their new Premium Club area” at Progressive Field, according to Joel Hammond of CRAIN’S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. The Premium Club features 120 seats and will be “more exclusive than its current club area, which sits directly above the Premium Club in the second deck on the first-base side.” It features the “ability to see the field throughout, from the bar at one end to two serving stations along the back walls to half-circle tables positioned just inside retractable glass.” The current club area's climate-controlled lounge is “set back from the seating area, meaning fans sitting inside at the bar or standing at a serving station can't see the field and watch the game." All tickets in the 5,000-square-foot Premium Club “sell for $150 apiece," with gourmet food, beer and wine included. One hundred of the seats “will be high-back leather chairs that will be sold as season tickets,” while others will “consist of wooden seats akin to those found at old venues such as the former Cleveland Municipal Stadium.” The project is “among a group of enhancements team president Mark Shapiro described in September as ‘mid-term’ projects, financed completely by the team, as part of its development of a longer-term master plan for the 18-year-old ballpark.” The Indians did not disclose the cost of the project, but sources said that "it'd be a multi-million-dollar project.” Shapiro has said that the master plan “will come within the next 15 months” and will address such issues as Progressive Field's “capacity, circulation of its fans, and, if the Premium Club works, its inclusion in the park's premium product mix” (CRAIN’S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 11/26 issue).

Maryland's "thoroughbred horse racing tracks and the state's horsemen are close to agreement on a 10-year deal" for racing dates that would "give the industry stability it has not seen in decades,” according to sources cited by Chris Korman of the Baltimore SUN. While the deal with the Maryland Jockey Club “still needs to gain approval by the boards" of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, it "could be announced by the end of the week.” Members of the Maryland Racing Commission “had given the sides a Nov. 30 deadline.” A long-term deal “finally could put horse racing on the path its advocates predicted 10 years ago when the state began moving to legalize gambling.” But those early hopes were “based on the assumption that slot machines would end up at the tracks.” Neither Pimlico nor Laurel “managed to secure a license” and the Jockey Club has “seen only a minor benefit from gambling.” The Stronach Group -- the parent company of the Maryland Jockey Club, which also owns the Bowie training center -- has “offered to guarantee 146 days of racing next year and 100 days in each subsequent year.” MTHA General Counsel Alan Foreman said that the horsemen would “have the option to buy more days and could be in better position to do so” because purses will “continue to grow with the opening of casinos in Baltimore and Prince George's County.” Foreman also said that the “guarantee of race dates will persuade more trainers to operate in Maryland” (Baltimore SUN, 11/27).