LeBron James & Co.: An Economic Stimulus Second Coming in Miami
Around the State
Though nobody has attempted to calculate it yet, LeBron James's economic impact on the Greater Miami area could be something akin to the eruption of Mount St. Helens -- only instead of lava, the city could be looking at a flowing sea of greenbacks.
As sports business commentator and author Rick Horrow said in Friday's Miami Herald, "LeBron is a walking, talking, free-throw-shooting stimulus plan."
And don't think it was beneath the dignity of Florida politicians to try to bring "King James" to the Sunshine State.
In fact, for one unguarded moment, a pair of rivals in the race for U.S. Senate came together in common purpose -- to lure the NBA superstar to Miami.
According to ESPN, on Thursday morning, as soon as the sports network reported that James was leaning toward Miami, Republican candidate and front-runner Marco Rubio -- who lives in Miami -- "tried egging James on, tweeting: '@kingjames(aka Lebron)come to Florida!'" Not long after, the Democratic front-runner in the same race, Kendrick Meek, "retweeted Rubio's plea, adding: 'Shocking! We agree.' Rubio then retweeted his rival's sentiment."
When all was said and done, Rubio and Meek's gain was President Barack Obama's loss. Obama had pushed James to sign with Chicago. The president must have thought he had a chance, too, because according to OpenSecrets.org, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward gave Obama a $20,000 campaign donation in 2008. Apparently it didn't mean that in 2010 James would be swayed to choose the Bulls.
For that matter, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the star to join the Knicks. No dice. And Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland made an elaborate pitch to keep James a Cleveland Cavalier. No dice, either.
Meanwhile, back in Miami, great heaves beneath the earth's surface began even before the 25-year-old James announced he would dump Cleveland and snub offers from Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles to come to Miami. With the signing of free agent Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade, Heat fans had apparently figured it out -- they had in their midst a triumverate who will terrorize the rest of the league for who-knows-how-long. So, they reserved season tickets in record numbers as early as last Tuesday.
There's gold in the seats at AmericanAirlines Arena -- the new-found kind -- and Heat management have only just begun to calculate how much they can mine from the maximum 19,600-seat configuration.
Look on the Miami Heat Web site now and this is what you'll see: "We are currently accepting deposits of $100 per seat (maximum of four seats) to add your name to our waiting list for Miami Heat season tickets. Simply click below ..."
Want an idea of what's going on? Have a look at FanSnap.com, a Web site that tracks the prices of tickets to sports events. It says you could have made a killing earlier in the week by investing in Miami Heat season tickets.
Thursday, before LeBron James announced he would sign with Miami, FanSnap reports that Heat season tickets were available for an average price of $3,238.61. But now that the big guy is coming to town for sure, that average has soared to $8,249.99.
Expect the season price for remaining club seats, private boxes and luxury suites to explode.
Heat ticket agent Sandi Fernandez told Sunshine State News on Friday, "A little pricier, yes. But whatever they cost, believe me, they will all be gone practically overnight. That's what we predict around here."
The Heat's Lebron-related fortunes are calculable at this point. The city's -- in fact, the whole region's -- are vast, but not so easy to estimate.
Darren Rovell, who analyses the business side of sports for CNBC, estimated that signing James will lead to an extra 76,670 fans buying tickets for Heat games -- kicking in more than $4.4 million in sales and more than $920,000 in concessions. Rovell estimated that just because of James's presence, sponsors will provide more than $2.5 million extra to the Heat.
Christina De Nicola at Bleacher Report compiled a list of 10 ways the James signing will impact Miami and its economy. De Nicola wrote that the James signing meant increased merchandise and ticket sales, sponsorships, television revenue, downtown development, more attention to other South Florida sports teams, such as the Marlins and the Panthers, and increased media attention.
Miami can look at Chicago and draw a comparison, too. The Windy City has seen the phenomenon of the Super Athlete before. Fifteen years ago, when Michael Jordan soared for the Bulls -- when he carried them to playoff after playoff -- city fathers got a taste of just how much star power could enrich the world around them.
In the Jordan era, Chicago broadcast execs grew giddy over towering ratings and ad sales to match. When network television carried an NBA game, nearly half of the time it chose the Bulls.
"It was like Tiger Woods in a golf tournament today," said Seth Lane, a broadcast assistant at ESPN. "You come to see him win or you come to see him lose, but in any event, you come to see him play. And without Tiger, the thrill is gone and so is the money anywhere near the course.
"That's how it was with Michael and that's how it will be with Lebron, Dwyane (Wade) and Chris (Bosh) mowing down the rest of the NBA in Miami."
The real thrill for Miamians is anticipation of a championship dynasty. And that's where the truly "big money" comes from. The more deep playoff runs the team makes, the more money it hauls in -- a minimum of $700,000 a year, analysts say. The team could host 10 playoff games a year for millions of dollars more. Add to that playoff tickets, concessions, parking and other spending. And across the Greater Miami area, consider the money shelled out on TV ads, sports-bar tabs, pizza deliveries and no end of ancillary products and services.
Some Florida businesses have already climbed aboard the "make me some loot, LeBron" bandwagon. The Fort Lauderdale-based Atlas Embroidery and Screen Printing Co., which employs 70 Floridians, was busy producing replicas of James’s jersey just hours after he announced he would sign with Miami.
State Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, Democratic candidate for attorney general, is such a devoted basketball fan he lists it as one of his chief recreational activities in the clerk’s manual for the Senate. Think he's not happy?
“... It's terrific for Florida," Gelber said of James's imminent signing with the Heat. “I'm just hoping LeBron doesn't run for attorney general.”