Quantifying the LeBron Effect in Miami

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the news that LeBron James would be joining the Miami Heat next season, I overheard one sports analyst comment that “King James’” arrival in the Magic city would make Heat games – and by extension, the community – “more corporate.” The rationale behind this idea

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the news that LeBron James would be joining the Miami Heat next season, I overheard one sports analyst comment that “King James’” arrival in the Magic city would make Heat games – and by extension, the community – “more corporate.” The rationale behind this idea is that major corporations will now clamor for high-priced basketball tickets, squeezing out mainstream fans in the process. He had apparently seen similar dynamics unfold during Michael Jordan’s years in Chicago and then Washington, D.C.

Despite its strong position as an international hub for finance and commerce, the core of Miami’s business base has long been perceived as largely entrepreneurial. While I’d be surprised to see LeBron’s arrival singlehandedly draw new corporate blood to South Florida, I am a big believer that Miami’s heightened prominence on the world stage surrounding this announcement and over the next several years will have a positive impact on our regional economy and, more specifically, Downtown Miami, home to American Airlines Arena.

We have already seen an unprecedented level of activity in downtown Miami’s residential market over the past 12-18 months, with nearly three out of four of the condo units built since 2003 now filled, according to a recent study by the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Not surprisingly, this population growth is providing a boost for downtown’s retail sector, which now sports one of the nation’s lowest vacancy rates as business owners flock to the area to serve and employ residents.

I can only imagine what 41 sold-out Heat games (plus the playoffs!) will do to further accelerate the area’s emergence as a 24/7 city, but it remains to be seen whether the LeBron effect will make Miami more corporate.

Now on to more important business: educating Miami’s newest superstar that the Heat’s home court is not located on South Beach, but rather in the heart of South Florida’s newest destination: Downtown Miami.

Danet Linares is Executive Vice President of Blanca Commercial Real Estate.