Sports Commission in talks to bring teams' merchandise to MIA
By Scott E. Pacheco
Miami-Dade sports officials are working on a deal to secure retail space at Miami International Airport to showcase the area's sports teams.
"You can get your café con leche but you cannot get a Dolphins jersey [at MIA] — we are working very closely to change that," said Aaron Davidson, chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's Sports Committee.
The project has been in the discussion phase for a few years, but is moving closer now, said Mr. Davidson, who also sits on the board of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, which is working with the airport on the project.
Mike Sophia, executive director of the commission, said the interested partners are crunching numbers and putting together a business plan.
"It's something you see in airports all around the country — that sports presence that sort of builds pride in your sports teams," he said. "Between the airport and the sports commission we have a tentative framework."
He added that "certainly it would require an investment from the partners involved," and the amount of that investment is what is currently being discussed.
MIA officials weren't made available for an interview though MIA spokesman Marc Henderson noted in a short e-mail that the Aviation Department is working with the Miami Dade Sports on establishing sports apparel stores at the airport.
In May, the subject of creating a sports retail kiosk or store at the airport came up at the Chamber's goals conference, and the goal of "facilitating the proposal process to Miami International Airport Master Concessionaires to create a Miami Sports concept store and kiosks that includes major sporting events and teams" was created. Mr. Sophia clarified that the current effort is not a chamber initiative.
Because Miami International Airport makes the first and final impressions on many visitors, it's troubling that Miami's major sports teams aren't prominently featured in the terminals, said Mr. Davidson, who also is vice president of Traffic Sports, a Brazil-based sports team and event management company, and president of the Miami FC soccer team.
"We need to work together as teams and events," Mr. Davidson said. "If there's a time to do it, it's in this economy. We've got to work together, especially in a city that doesn't have civic pride; we've got to find a way to drive it."
Andy Montero, senior director of retail operations for the Miami Heat, agreed.
"The airport is one that makes a lot of sense," he said. "You travel to other airports [and they have merchandise]. I don't see any [at MIA]. I see a lot of books, a lot of newspapers and a lot of food."
Mr. Montero said that since the Heat play in American Airlines Arena, he would like to be associated with the airline's area at MIA.
"It's a perfect match for us to sell merchandise at the airport," he said. "I think it will be win-win situation for everyone that wants to partner with us… it would be great to have the Dolphins, Marlins, UM, all the Miami teams" in on the deal.
Mr. Davidson calls the merchandising initiative an "anchor" to a possible "We are Miami" campaign to grow civic pride among a population made up largely of people from many different places. Miami's residents will "always have a place in [their] heart for [their] home country" but that their current city also needs support, he said.
"Our biggest challenge right now is to make it very clear that we are Miami."
And in these times, with a new Florida Marlins baseball stadium going up, it would behoove the community to drum up more support for professional teams through things such as the merchandising agreement, said Miami-Dade Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz, vice-chair of the county's Airport and Tourism Committee.
"If you know the way I operate, it is I take pride in what we do," he said. "We need to make sure that we get that word out there that we support our teams — by supporting them we are supporting the community."