With all the hype surrounding the opening of this spanking new arena just two months
earlier, we were anticipating having our socks knocked off when we got to this place. But
even though we were impressed with the arena, it did not meet the high expectations we
had placed on this venue.
The American Airlines Arena replaces the former home of the Heat, the "old" Miami Arena,
which is located three blocks away. We say "old" somewhat sarcastically, since Miami
Arena is less than 20 years old. Yet in this day and age of club seats and premium seating,
the old arena had become obsolete, though still used by the Miami Hurricanes college
team. The NHL Panthers went their own way with a new arena 35 miles north outside Ft.
Lauderdale, while the Heat went ahead with their new showplace right on Biscayne Blvd. in
downtown Miami. The WNBA Miami Sol also play their games here.
Outside the venue
The neighborhood is a study in contrasts... right across the street to the south is a festive
plaza, arcade and marina, with shopping, restaurants, patio bars and nightclubs in
abundance. The ambience of this place is truly special. It is a great place to enjoy dinner or
drinks before or after a Heat game in the warm Florida air, along with breathtaking views of
Biscayne Bay and the causeways to Miami Beach. Cross over Biscayne to the east, and you
will traverse Miami's worst areas -- homeless shelters, a dilapidated bus station, and
impound lots surrounded by barbed wire fencing. Out of all this mix rises this imposing
sports structure - a massive, stone arena with huge outdoor plazas; high tech in its
architecture and the scrolling ticker boards running across the rim of the building.
Parking starts at $15, with some lots at $10. The cheaper lots are over towards Miami
Arena, but unless you want to walk through this rough area, we suggest you pay the higher
fee and park close by. Meters are monitored 24-7, so if you park on the street you will be
The arena is laid out in such a way as to offer a maze of many varied concourses, all
connected by short escalators. One of the most dramatic features of the arena is the
floodlit mood lighting which is done in Miami Heat colors. The ground floor is bathed in
bright red, the main concourse in orange and the upper level in yellow. Stand outside at a
distance from the arena at night, and this looks spectacular. Go inside, however, and as
you ride the escalators up, this lighting only accentuates the splashes of gray concrete and
calls attention to the unfinished concrete work on the walls and ceilings. In fact, one can
still see the etchings and measurement marks left by the contractors who built the
On our second visit, we were impressed with the tile work that was done to finish off the
concourses, all in bright Heat colors, and the floor to ceiling advertising murals on the
outside walls. There are several outdoor patios and balconies for the puffers. When you
take a step into the warm air outside, you will enjoy a great view, no matter which direction
you happen to look out on.
Here we were more impressed - the "Heat' colors radiate like fire throughout the seating
scheme from yellow to orange to red and then black. High in each end zone are two
balconies which are opened only when the rest of the building is sold out. There is also a
ground level club concourse available to rhose holding club seats. On both of our visits
plenty of seats were available. The center scoreboard is a wonder - four sided video
panels capped by smaller eight sided dot matrix info panels, the ad panels, and lastly, a
tentacled sculpture in the shape of a sun which radiates light and special effects.
On both levels are several nooks with seating areas and carveries offering sandwiches.
Otherwise nothing more than the standard ballpark dreck. The main team store is at the
ground level of the main entrance.
On our first visit we saw the Heat do a big pregame show with light, fire, dot matrix effects
and awesome music. It was pretty impressive to watch. What was really dumb, however,
was the prelude to the intro, in which some local weatherman kept coming on like some
newscast and advising of the weather front approaching Miami. They tried to make it look
real, but it was all part of the show, and really cheapened the whole thing.
Slam dunks, assists, fouls
Slam dunk - When visiting Miami, as we said, check out the marina next door to the
American Airlines Arena, and for other cool places to visit - we suggest Collins Ave in
South Beach and the A1A strip along Ft. Lauderdale Beach.
Assist - Built right into the arena is a practice court, but unfortunately, it is not accessible
or viewable by the general public. Still a nice set up though.
Assist - To Media Relations guys Tim Donavan and Rob Wilson for setting us up with an
interview with Hall of Famer and Miami Heat Assistant Coach Bob McAdoo. All went well
with the interview and it was a thrill to have the opportunity to meet one of the true icons
of Buffalo sports.
Foul - NO out of town scoreboard. NO announcement of scores. This is not a luxury or extra
in today's modern venue, IT IS A MUST!
Well we did come back, just to see if this place looked any better than the first time we
came here. We were disappointed, though, to see that nothing much has really changed.
This venue is high tech, unique in architecture and style, and reflects the Miami Heat
theme and colors in a very nice way. Yet the atrium and escalator towers, which should be
the signature of this building, are at the same time brightly floodlit and shabby gray, and
that does not work well when viewed close up.
However, there is one thing we REALLY like about the Miami Heat --- and that is our guy
BOB MCADOO working as their Assistant Coach. So we close with that familiar refrain
heard many a time at the Buffalo Braves games in the old Aud ----- "that's twooooo for Mc
Food and team store 6
Scoreboard and electronics 7
Fan support 4
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and history 3
In game entertainment 6.5
Concourses/fan comfort 5
Bonus: TWO FOR MCADOO 2; McAdoo interview 2
Total points: 54.5
February 9, 2000