Atlanta’s Champions

By staff writer

January 2019

Nothing says success like the groundbreaking emergence of the MLS Atlanta United Football Club. In just its second season of existence, the United has grown to tower over all other teams in the MLS and has broken records for both the city of Atlanta and major-league soccer.

More than 73,000 fans showed up to watch the 2018 MLS Cup, held in December at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This attendance was nearly 20 percent higher than at the 2017 MLS Cup, which hosted roughly 61,300 fans. With their 2-0 win against the Portland Timbers, the United clinched the city’s first major professional sports championship since the Braves beat the Cleveland Indians in 1995 and became just the second expansion team in MLS history to reach the finals within its first two seasons.

Supporting the largest fanbase of any franchise in the MLS, as well as being the highest-ranked team in the league, the United is currently the most valuable soccer team in the U.S., worth nearly $330 million.

Although the United had a rough start to the regular MLS season with a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo, the team was not discouraged and focused on improving its performance. Atlanta ended the season with 21 wins and 7 losses (up from 15-9 in the 2017 regular season), going cleat-to-cleat with many of the league’s top teams, including the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and D.C. United.

But Atlanta’s 2018 achievements did not stop there. United forward Josef Martinez proved to be the top scorer in the MLS, collecting 31 goals, 10 game-winning goals and eight penalty kicks during the regular season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the LA Galaxy was runner-up, with 22 goals. The wide margin between the leading scorer and the number two was due to more than just team chemistry. Atlanta United Coach Gerando “Tata” Martino noted that there was a solid plan in place to achieve these winning numbers. “They never modified any part of the plans,” he said. “The most satisfying thing to me is that we followed the plan.”

In addition to improvements on the field, the Atlanta Football Club has seen massive growth over the past two years. Arthur Blank, billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, funded $70 million worth of expansions for the team in 2016 and placed the United in the $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Blank’s NFL Atlanta Falcons also play. Since then, the United has sold more than 1 million tickets (by far the highest number in MLS history) and is responsible for one-quarter of total MLS merchandise sales (with Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron being among the top-selling jerseys in the league).

Things are looking good for not only Atlanta United but also for Atlanta professional sports in general. Atlanta has been named a potential host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the entire metro area is gearing up for Super Bowl LIII, which will be held in February 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Focus: Atlanta is excited to see what’s in store for the United and Atlanta’s other superstar sports teams in 2019!

For more information on the Atlanta United, visit their website at https://www.atlutd.com/.

 

Lasting Legacy

 

 

April 2018 — From the Dolphins’ “perfect season” and back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the 1970s to the Heat’s back-to-back NBA championships in the 2010s, Miami has consistently been known for its talented sports teams. The city’s teams have been home to many of the best players in every major sport, including Dan Marino, Giancarlo Stanton and the powerhouse “Big Three”: Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. To continue Miami’s legacy of sports domination, 2017 brought many highlights to this wonderful city.

The Miami Hurricanes football team landed a near-perfect season, finishing 10-3 after appearing in the Orange Bowl for the first time in over a decade. Many were calling it “the return of the U,” referring to the iconic era of Hurricane domination in the 1980s.

Another huge return happened in Miami recently. This past February, Dwayne Wade, a member of the “Big Three” and a key contributor to Miami’s consecutive championship titles in 2012-13, re-signed with the NBA’s Heat after playing two years on other teams. Miami fans could not be more thrilled about his return and are looking forward to seeing the tremendous talent he brings to the court.

Additionally, Miami is in the midst of welcoming its newest sport: Major League Soccer. David Beckham has been working tirelessly for the past four years to make his dream a reality. In January, he made the announcement that a Miami MLS team has officially been created.  Although the team does not yet have a name, Miami residents and soccer fans are already enthusiastic about what the new team has to offer.

Invest: Miami spoke with a number of leaders in the city’s sports industry to gain insight into  how Miami sports teams create a community bond and the ways these exciting highlights will impact their fan base. Here’s what they said:

Kim Stone, Executive Vice President & General Manager, The Heat Group

“We’re in the middle of a more than 350-game streak of sellouts that dates back to 2010, when the Big Three of Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade first came together. The impressive thing is that we have been able to sustain this after the Big Three departed. We have seen our community and fan base grow from being fans of individual players to fans of the Miami Heat. This year, we are thrilled that Dwyane Wade has returned. From a business standpoint, he is the Miami Heat, so he drives increased interest in terms of tickets, viewership on TV, merchandise sales and enthusiasm for our team. Still, to our fans, it doesn’t matter what name is on the back of the jersey; the name on the front, Miami, is what matters.”

Don Shula, Owner, Miami Dolphins

I think the fact that our initial success came at the same time as the rejuvenation of Miami goes hand-in-hand. We helped shine a spotlight on the region, and that exposure helped show many of the great qualities of the city that makes it such an attractive place to work and live. With the Dolphins playing well again and bringing a sense of excitement throughout South Florida, it will add yet another positive characteristic to such a vibrant region.”

Udonis Haslem, Captain, Miami Heat

We’ve built a tradition over the past 14 years, winning three world championships, which is unheard of in this sport. You can’t think about Miami without thinking about the Heat. You think about the standards, the city, the flash, the glitz, the glitter, the food and the different cultures, and the Miami Heat embraces all of that. You also think about Overtown and the inner city.  Since I have been a part of the Heat organization, we have done a tremendous job of impacting the entire city. Even those who can’t afford tickets are able to come to the games.”

To find out more about Miami’s sports teams, visit their websites at:

Miami Heat: http://www.nba.com/heat/
Miami Dolphins: http://www.miamidolphins.com/
Miami Hurricanes: https://hurricanesports.com/

“Fly, Eagles, Fly!”

February 2018 — On Sunday night in bitter cold Minneapolis, the Philadelphia Eagles brought home their first championship win since 1960, beating the New England Patriots 41-33 in a hard-fought battle. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, Bud Light is keeping its promise. The beer company officially announced that it will be providing free beer (to those 21-plus in age, of course) at 25 bars along the parade route in Philadelphia on Thursday, February 8.

While the Eagles went into Justin Timberlake’s high-energy halftime show with a 10-point lead — thanks primarily to a surgically executed and gutsy trick play where Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles caught a pass from tight end Trey Burton on a fourth and goal — the Patriots came out of halftime like bulls out of the gate. But they couldn’t sustain the momentum, and despite Tom Brady’s history of pulling off the Hail Mary, it was the Birds who were flying high when the last second ticked off the game clock.

 

Nick Foles may have been the obvious star of the game, stepping up to play quarterback after the unexpected loss of Carson Wentz and proving that you don’t need to be a 5-time Super Bowl vet to dominate on the gridiron, but besting the Patriots was truly a team effort. As head coach Doug Pederson said, “An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle!”

For the Eagles, the win means the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy, Super Bowl rings, healthy postseason bonuses and the prestige of being national champions, but what does it mean for the city of Philadelphia?

Thousands of fans have flocked to Philly to partake in the post-win festivities. Monetarily speaking, this has been great news for the city’s hospitality industry, but it’s not so good news for out-of-town fans. People seeking hotels in Philadelphia were out of luck, with zero availability in the downtown area and seriously over-inflated prices on the outskirts of the city. The Marriott Courtyard Bloomington, for example, was offering rooms for $699 a night when the usual rate is about $89 to $161 a night.

There’s no question that this Super Bowl win will provide much more than just monetary gains for the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles not only won as historic underdogs but also beat a true football dynasty, providing a sense of community pride (and serious bragging rights) for the people of Philadelphia for a long time to come. They won against all odds and in the face of many obstacles. The boys in green have rewritten Philly sports history. And it’s not just a win for the Eagles; it’s a win for all the people of Philadelphia. Fly, Eagles, fly!

For more information about the Philadelphia Eagles, visit http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/

“It’s Official, Miami”

January 2018 — “Today you made my dream come true,” a giddy David Beckham, suited shoulders draped in an MLS scarf, told a small crowd gathered at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Monday, January 29.

After his first announcement four years ago fell through in the face of financing and stadium site challenges, Beckham’s dream of bringing an MLS expansion team to Miami is finally coming to fruition as the league made it official.

Beckham’s ownership group is planning to build a 25,000-seat, $225 million stadium in Overtown as the new home to Miami professional soccer. The stadium plan includes a training center and academy that will focus on developing local players. The team hopes to be deeply connected to the community — not just to the players but also to the fans. The goal is to grow locally in order to compete globally.

Miami has a complicated history with soccer. Its first MLS team, Miami Fusion, based out of Fort Lauderdale, flopped in 2001 after only a few short — and underwhelming — years. In a city known for its diversity and rich Latin American influence, it’s almost unfathomable that a futbol team isn’t already a huge part of its fabric. But while friendly matches bring out fans in droves, for some reason a home team hasn’t had the same impact.

Beckham and his co-owners hope to change that. Perhaps as they sort out the still-unannounced details — team name, colors, logo, start date — they should look to another team, in Capital Analytics’ Atlanta market, for some ideas on how to make a brand-new franchise shine virtually overnight.

In 2017, Atlanta United kicked off its inaugural season, and just five months after that first game, it had become MLS’s most popular team. It boasts the highest average home attendance in MLS history and better average home attendance than any MLS, NBA, NHL or MLB franchise in the country. Its opening weekend match was the best-attended game, by a factor of two, in the league.

Reports have suggested we would be the 24th team in Europe with our average attendance,” Darren Eales, president of Atlanta United, told Capital Analytics, “and for our first game of the season, we had an attendance of 55,000, which put us at the fourth most attended game in the world.”

So how did this team go from nothing to record-breaking so quickly? Two words: community investment. They spent a lot of time meeting with fans in bars, pre-selling season seats and generally pounding the pavement to spread the word.

“From day one, we wanted to create the feeling that this was a club centered on its fans,” Eales told Capital Analytics, “so we did a lot of grassroots events focused on international games and viewing parties. We decided that if we focus on our most dedicated fans, the rest will take care of itself.”  

They also spent some time making sure that the team would be worth watching, which included recruiting a talented coach and deeply investing in young players. Team owner Arthur Blank’s resources, such as commercial sponsorship and sales and marketing departments (he also owns the Falcons), didn’t hurt either.

If Beckham wants his Miami team to succeed, he will need to rely on more than his legendary right foot. Soccer is a collaborative sport, and the Miami MLS franchise will truly need to be a collaboration between the community and the team. All eyes on are on Fútbol Miami as the details get hammered out and we looked forward to opening day!

For more information on Beckham’s team, visit https://www.futbolmiamimls.com/
For more information on Atlanta United, visit https://www.atlutd.com/

Britweek – 4 Nations Cricket Tournament

When: Sunday, March 12th 10am – 4pm

Where: Central Broward Stadium, 3700 Northwest 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311

The inaugral BritWeek 4 Nations Cricket Tournament.
With teams representing the UK, India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

 

 

Invest: Miami speaks with Udonis Haslem, Team Captain, Miami Heat

 

I come from Miami, so I want to make a difference in this area. I have friends and family who have fallen on hard times, either through bad luck or poor decisions, and they deserve support. When I first became successful, I tried to help by just giving out money. However, after a while, I realized this only helped so far and did not help people fully reach their potential. I wanted to find a way that I could have a positive impact on people’s lives without simply handing out money, which is why I started buying franchises. Licensing is a way of bringing more job opportunities to the city. Once people have real employment opportunities, you can see how invested they become in trying to improve their own situations. I refuse to invest money or time into something just to make money. I have to be passionate about it because I want to be involved. My career trajectory has been interesting. I had a great career in college basketball, but I started my professional career in Europe. While I was there, I dedicated myself to self-improvement, learning what it takes to become a real professional. Instead of blaming the NBA for making a mistake and not drafting me straight away, I asked myself “What can I do? How can I better myself? How can I put myself in a good situation to be successful?” Now I want to use what I have learned to help the Miami community. You can’t think about Miami without thinking about the Miami HEAT. There are the different cultures, great foods and excitement in this city, and the HEAT embraces all of that. However, there is also Overtown and the inner city life, which also need consideration. Since I have been a part of the HEAT organization, we have done a tremendous job of impacting the entire city. The HEAT has always been great in the community, and they have supported my children’s foundation as well as the City of Miami. We were a football town when I was growing up, and to be part of this team’s evolution, to contribute to our first, second and third championships, to have the opportunity to be coached by the great Pat Riley and have the Arison family be my bosses has been a dream come true.

Pride of Miami

How the Miami Dolphins put the county on the sporting map 

Don Shula Former Head Coach – Miami Dolphins

 

What are the main accomplishments in your career that you are most proud of? What do you want to be your legacy for the Miami Dolphins?

I’m proud of my two Super Bowl championships, including the 1972 “Perfect Season” Dolphins team, especially since no other team has gone undefeated in the history of the NFL. I’m also proud of winning more games than any coach in the league, because that’s a reflection of the quality of the players and coaches I worked with. The result of that success has made the Dolphins one of the flagship teams in the league, and I’m especially proud that goal was achieved by doing things the right way with hard work, professionalism, and integrity.

What role do professional sports play in helping Miami develop into a sophisticated global city?

We were the first professional team in South Florida, and I’d like to believe that our success helped bring all the different elements of the region together. For the many people here who rooted for us, regardless of their gender, age, income or any other difference, they all had one thing in common – they were all Dolphins fans. I think that common bond helped the city grow and become major league in so many ways.

What are your views on Coach Adam Gase and the current direction of the team?

Coach Gase is an outstanding coach and a great person, and it’s no surprise to me that his team did so well in 2016/2017. Coach Gase, his coaches and players were able to build a winning culture that will be a key to their future success. But that turnaround is also as a result of the leadership of the franchise, headed by Steve Ross, Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier, Coach Gase and Tom Garfinkel. They are totally unified in their goal of building a long-term winning team in Miami, and I think you saw the initial result of that philosophy this past season. They’ve been very welcoming every time I’ve been around them, and they’ve made everyone associated with the Dolphins feel like they are all part of the same family. That’s certainly a great foundation to build a successful team.

What impact has the current Miami Dolphins team had on Miami’s overall reputation?

I think the fact that our initial success came at the same time as the rejuvenation of Miami goes hand-in-hand. We helped shine a spotlight on the region, and that exposure helped show many of the great qualities of the city that makes it such an attractive place to work and live. With the Dolphins playing well again and bringing a sense of excitement throughout South Florida, it will add yet another positive characteristic to such a vibrant region.

 

Proud tradition

How a long-standing legacy of victory becomes an asset for growth in a new era

Tom Garfinkel President & CEO – Miami Dolphins

What are the key components of the Miami Dolphins’ growth strategy for the medium term?

Our goal is to honor the proud winning tradition of the Dolphins and bring the team to a place where it is competing for championships every year. We celebrated our 50th season in 2015. For a part of that time, we were the only professional sports franchise in Florida and we had a lot of success. Because of that history, the team has a deeply emotional and meaningful connection with its fans, who are passionate and loyal. From a business strategy standpoint, we want to respect the passion of those supporters and find new ways to en- gage with them and enhance their experiences with the Dolphins. We are looking at the end-to-end experience, from concessions, security protocols, even bath- room conditions, and are measuring everything to try to set benchmarks and bring about improvements. Additionally, we are looking at new ways to open the dialogue with fans and make their voices more meaningful. We could presume to know what they want, but I find it’s a lot easier and more effective to simply ask them.

The Sun Life Stadium is a landmark infrastructure in the city. What is the strategic vision to grow its impact?

While the stadium is part of the Dolphins brand, our vi- sion is for the stadium to become a global entertainment destination that will host the biggest events in the world, including football. To reach this goal, we’ve invested more than $450 million in renovations, which included moving seats closer to the field and building new seating products and exclusive clubs that create a unique luxury experience. Over half of the tickets sold for the Jay Z and Beyoncé concert in 2014 were bought with credit cards from outside South Florida, indicating that people were coming from out of the area, so we know we can be a destination for big events that reach far beyond our region. We have plans to host more international soccer games and festivals and become a competitive venue to host football championships and hopefully even the World Cup. Finally, we are taking advantage of the fact that Miami is a global curator for culture by improving food offerings and curating artists from around the world to display their work at the stadium.

What are some of the challenges of operating a major league sports team in this market?

Miami offers many opportunities for leisure, whether it’s the beach, art events, music or other sports. Because of this, we have a lot of competition relative to other markets where entertainment options are more limited. However, this also means that we have a tremendous opportunity to engage consumers by creating a variety of experiences using the stadium.

Unique flavor

How the internationalization of basketball and Miami mutually reinforce each other

Chris Bosh Player – The HEAT Group

Basketball has become an increasingly international sport. How have you experienced this as a player?

The evolution of technology has made the world smaller. The ability for the NBA to promote and broadcast games all around the world has definitely made a difference in making the sport more popular. I have been to Italy, Germany and many different parts of Europe, and nearly everywhere I go I get recognized. Not only that, but I hear people telling me, “Go HEAT!” They also tell me that they love Miami, or that they have always wanted to come here.

Why do you think that people around the world have this reaction to Miami?

Miami has its own unique flavor. When I think of Miami, I think glamour. I think electricity—the neon signs every- where, the electric pink and blue of the skies and also the energy of the place. There is the touristy side to Miami, but people are not just relaxing here all the time. They come here to play but also to work hard. There is that East Coast drive here. It’s not just a beach town. It’s a town full of ambitious people. It’s the best of both worlds.

How has living in Miami shaped you professionally, particularly in your development as an entrepreneur?

I’ve learned the most from meeting so many different types of people. Every businessperson, it seems, has been to Miami. Miami is also the Gateway to South America, and anyone who wants to do business there, or who is from there and wants to do business in the U.S., comes to Miami. One factor that is important to succeed in this area is being able to speak Spanish, which I have started to learn. This has helped me to connect with our Spanish-speaking fans, which are a very important group. The fact that so many international businesspeople working in different industries—whether it’s real estate or technology—pass through here provides a really amazing opportunity. Just that factor alone allows you to really build relationships and talk to people from all around the world you wouldn’t normally be able to talk to.

What role do you think that sports, and in particular the Miami HEAT, play in promoting economic growth and business development in this market?

Miami is becoming a true global city. It has always been known as this, but I think the infrastructure now is catching on. More opportunities are opening up and people from all over the world are hearing about them and starting to come. Having arts, culture and a world-class team like the HEAT based here attracts more of those people. They can take their employees or clients to a HEAT game, enjoy some entertainment, have a good time—but also do business.