wade-james-bosh-web.jpgWhile Miami Heat fans and community leaders see the tremendous benefit of anchoring a super team with a player that the nation – if not the world – has crowned king, some fans wonder if expectations for a championship ring run too high.

Others wonder if they will be priced out of attending games, restaurants and events that Heat players have been known to attend.

Seeing the team play this season inside AmericanAirlines Arena may be only a dream for many of the fans.

On July 9, the Heat announced that it had “sold out of our currently available season ticket inventory.” Season tickets in the 400 level of AmericanAirlines Arena will not be offered this season. Instead, the Heat will sell them to groups and individuals later this summer. Patrons who want tickets need to join a burgeoning waiting list.

“This strategy is part of our long-standing commitment to provide access to as much of our community as possible, as well as a wide range of ticket prices to accommodate all fans looking to feel the Heat Experience live and in person,” said Miami Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth, in a statement.

Diehard fans who jumped in February when the Heat told them about an impending price increase say they feel vindicated.

Miami lawyer Stuart Gitlitz has been a Heat season ticket holder for the life of the team. He paid $140 per game for each of this season’s and next season’s games. His 100-level, mid-court seat would cost $170 each game starting this month, if any were actually available.

Gitlitz said that when he bought his tickets in March, he was hoping that Dwyane Wade would re-sign with the Heat. Not in his wildest dreams did he anticipate the trifecta that is Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Getting tickets in the private market is an option for fans, but they should be prepared to pay, and pay a lot. A seller on Craigslist offered tickets to the opening game – seats in the same level as Gitlitz’s – with parking and two T-shirts for $2,000.

Gitlitz, who lives near the Dadeland Mall in Kendall, isn’t shedding a tear for anyone who has to pay more to see the Heat play, or those who have to settle for the version of the games on a flat-screen TV. He said he thinks Miamians forgot about the 2006 championship.

“People like to jump on the bandwagon, but where were they during the hard times, the tough times?” Gitlitz asked, noting that most Miami fans walk out of the games during the last few minutes. “They should have been supporting the Heat before they got the dream team. It’s great for the Heat, because they will be able to pay for it. Sometimes you have to believe.”

Fair-weather or not, fans are fans, and the National Basketball Association franchise can expect the fans’ support when it’s a winning team, Miami Attorney H.T. Smith suggested.

“When we have a good team, more people come out to support it,” said Smith, who is not a season ticket holder because he teaches night classes.

He said he is looking to share tickets.

“Same rule applies to all markets: sports, news, restaurants. If it is good people support it; if not, they don’t,” Smith said.

Whether the Heat will be a great team was the topic of debate for Paul Facey and a couple of his friends Tuesday night, July 13 at his Miramar home. Facey’s friends said they think a championship is guaranteed.

Facey, however, does not. He was surprised that Wade re-signed and that James joined the team. He said he wonders how all the egos will blend.

“They are used to being the pin-up boys on the team, and I don’t know if they are going to share the glory,” Facey said of Wade and James. “Is he still going to be the king or is Wade going to be king?”

Facey said he thinks that by assembling a powerhouse team, the Heat has a target on its back.

“Every team in the NBA is going to want to beat the dream team,” Facey said. “Three players can’t win a match; you need five.”

If you can’t be in the stadium, perhaps you can buy a jersey – if you can find one. The official NBA store has replicas of James’ Heat jersey on its website, starting at $45. T-shirts are available starting at about $20.

And then, there’s all the charity and community events.

Bill Diggs, president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks everything will fall into place once James embraces the Heat’s commitment to community.

Diggs said he plans to meet with James as soon as the 25-year-old super athlete settles in Miami and his new role. He said he believes the community is a part of the Heat’s culture, and the support that the team extends to players like Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem will continue with James, if he wants it.

“The ownership of the Heat, Micky [Arison] and Pat [Riley] understand the building of the community, and we believe LeBron will embrace that because he is already practicing that,” Diggs said.

Miami lawyer George Knox said he wonders if the fans may have too high of an expectation for what he calls “the new Heat.” He submits that fans may expect the new players to get involved in the community, but that may not be the reality, and for that they should be prepared.

“The rest of this is how we manage it and how much we are concerned about the least among us,” Knox said. “This is their money and they have the absolute right to do whatever they want to do with their money. Would you be mad if they didn’t buy a house and left town every weekend?”

Knox said he believes James will make Miami home, especially after hearing that he stopped at Garcia’s, a Miami River staple, to have lunch during his last visit.

And the championship ring? Definitely coming, Knox predicted.


SFT Staff Illustration: Dwyane Wade, left, LeBron James, center, and Chris Bosh, right.