Straub: Miami Arena will be razed if no buyer is found
By Charlotte Libov
The clock is ticking for the Miami Arena. If there are no viable plans for the facility by spring, it could be razed to make way for apartments, said owner Glenn Straub.
"I've been receiving inquiries. Many inquiries are verbal offers from people who can't afford it, but there are some people who can," he said. But "we've already made the decision we're going to tear it down if nobody comes forward before June 1."
The Palm Beach businessman, who bought the arena in 2004 for $28 million, said he's willing to consider all viable alternatives for the former Miami Heat home - from splitting the space in half to use for sporting events and conventions to installing a school.
The arena, built in 1988 for $52.2 million, was home to the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers. Both teams moved out of the building, and the city eventually sold it at auction to Mr. Straub.
The 5-acre site could be valuable for development, but Mr. Straub said he would like to see it remain a sports venue.
"We could put a 25-foot ceiling in it and use the bottom portion for sporting events and the upper floor for conventions and regular events," he said. He said he is talking with two sports teams but declined to name them.
Mr. Straub said 88 days of events were booked into the arena last year but 105 are needed for the venture to break even.
Bruce Colan, a partner at law firm Holland & Knight LLP and chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's New World Center Committee who was involved in the development of AmericanAirlines Arena, predicted that Miami Arena would be demolished unless a non-sports use can be found.
"It was one of the first-generation arenas," Mr. Colan said. "It was built like a sardine can. It was built barebones. In those days, it was a line expenditure for the team. These days, stadiums have to be profit centers, like the AmericanAirlines Arena, which is a profit center."
Mr. Straub said he might have been able to land bookings had Miami-Dade County not raised taxes on the 4,500-seat arena, hurting his ability to compete with other venues.
"We're the only arena that's not owned by the government, so we're bidding against people who don't pay any taxes,' he said. "That was the last straw - it was the straw that broke the camel's back."
Mr. Straub said the arena could become a downtown campus for Florida International University or home to another nonprofit organization. However, he said, no firm proposal has been submitted.
He said officials of his company have looked into buying two similar facilities in the state "because we could run three as easily as we could run one." But those deals didn't work out.
If no acceptable offers are received, he said, the arena will be torn down and 1,600 apartments built in its place.
"That would be a shame," he said. "The arena is in perfect shape. We don't want to be known as the people who tore it down."