Miami Dolphins Kick Off Season With New Training Complex, Partnerships, Roster Moves

By Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — With a new head coach and a rebuild underway, the Miami Dolphins will field a re-tooled look when the NFL’s 100th season kicks off next week. That look extends beyond the players and coaches, with a new training complex in the works and fresh partnerships that emphasize community involvement and impact. 

The Dolphins recently broke ground on the $135 million state-of-the-art training complex and sports performance clinic in Miami Gardens. The facility, named Baptist Health Training Complex, is part of a multiyear partnership with Baptist Health that is projected to open in spring 2021. 

“The Baptist Health Training Complex will be a state-of-the-art football facility with Baptist Health providing a world-class sports performance clinic available to the public so people can have access to the same care the players get,” Miami Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Tom Garfinkel said in a written statement.

The 125,000-square-foot training facility and 92,200-square foot indoor field will be significantly larger than the team’s current facility. The complex will also house an innovation hub, a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy area, a dedicated recovery area that includes cryotherapy and isolation tanks, an athletic training room with an expansive rehabilitation space, meeting rooms, an outdoor practice area with two full natural-grass fields, full indoor practice facility and other amenities. 

Another significant announcement by the Dolphins and its FOOTBALL UNITES™ program was the partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) through Values Matter Miami, which promotes education and values among the city’s students. According to an official announcement, starting in September, the Dolphins will recognize a student each month who best exemplifies a specific value.

“The Miami Dolphins are proud to strengthen our relationship with M-DCPS by supporting the Values Matter Miami Program to directly impact the students of Miami-Dade County,” Jason Jenkins, Miami Dolphins’ senior vice president of communications and community affairs, said in a written statement about the partnership. 

These initiatives are part of the Dolphins goal to inspire a healthier, more educated and united South Florida community. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Miami Dolphins: https://www.miamidolphins.com/ 

Baptist Health: https://baptisthealth.net/en/pages/home.aspx 

Miami-Dade County Public Schools: http://www.dadeschools.net/ 

Values Matter Miami: http://osi.dadeschools.net/valuesmatter/

Buccaneers Hope Offseason Moves Score Touchdown

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read August 2019   There is perhaps nothing more synonymous with Tampa Bay than its football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since officially joining the NFL in 1976, the Bucs have become a staple in the Tampa Bay region. The team’s history includes the highest highs and lowest lows, from a dismal 0-14 inaugural season to a Super Bowl title in 2003. Now only weeks away from the start of the 2019-2020 season, the Bucs are looking to bounce back from last year’s tumultuous campaign that resulted in a 5-11 win-loss record and a last-place divisional finish for a second straight year.

The Bucs have not allowed last year’s disappointing season to distract them from what could possibly be a comeback season in the making. After the final loss last season, the Bucs dismissed head coach Dirk Koetter. They have since hired two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians, who has been swift in his moves to strengthen the team’s defense and instill a winning culture within the locker room. The Buccaneers added some significant depth to their defense with their 2019 first round pick, linebacker Devin White, and with the addition of five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Ndamukong Suh.

While the city of Tampa Bay is eager to see the team return to its glory days as Super Bowl champs, there may be no one more focused on having a winning season this year than Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston. The national championship and Heisman Trophy winner has had what can be best described as an inconsistent NFL career. Entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, the former first round pick will undoubtedly look to use this season as his campaign to remain the team’s franchise quarterback. 

The Buccaneers franchise and fanbase can also look forward to an improved Raymond James Stadium, which underwent a $160 million renovation in the offseason. The stadium, and more broadly the City of Tampa Bay, will be home to Super Bowl LV in 2021, marking the fifth time Tampa Bay has hosted football’s biggest event. Invest: Tampa Bay spoke with Brian Ford, COO of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who discussed what it means to host this event once again. “It’s going to be Tampa’s fifth Super Bowl, which is great when you think about all the many, very exciting cities that can host the Super Bowl. We’re very proud of that. Tampa hosts a ton of big events, and we do them well. We worked closely with Rob Higgins of the Tampa Sports Commission, Eric Hart and Mickey Farrell of the Tampa Sports Authority, Commissioner Ken Hagan of Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa in putting together the best bid and best format for this mammoth event. When you sit down and look at it, it’s truly remarkable that so many in Pinellas County and Hillsborough County all came together for one event. And there’s no way that we would’ve been offered this opportunity if we hadn’t made a major investment in the renovations, of which we’re also very proud.”

The only thing that could make hosting a Super Bowl better for the Tampa Bay region would be to see the home team competing in it. While that may be a long shot at this point, the Buccaneers will have this season and next to prove they are a franchise that can compete at the highest level. It’s still early, but all signs seem to be pointing to a brighter future for the Tampa team. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.buccaneers.com/

Miami Sports Teams: Champions of Accessibility

By staff writer

March 2019

Credit: AECOM Hunt

With baseball’s opening day just behind us, Miami sports fans are gearing up for what’s sure to be an exciting year of professional sports. And local teams are pulling all the stops to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy the games.

Two of Miami’s teams, the Marlins and the Heat, are leading the pack in terms of fan engagement and accessibility. They’re doing so through strategic initiatives that range from technological innovations to improving ticket affordability.

The Miami Marlins have been proactive in enhancing and revamping their image, but improving the fan experience is of equal priority to the organization, team executives say. Marlins Park now features local food vendors and more communal spaces geared at giving the park a Miami “vibe.”

One of the most noteworthy efforts made by the organization is offering more affordable ticketing options. “We’ve created new opportunities for our millennial audience, including our new standing-room-only section in right field,” said Marlins’ President of Business Operations Chip Bowers in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “Now they can come for about $12 a ticket and have access to other parts of the ballpark.”

With society at large relying more and more on technology, it should come as no surprise that major sports teams are also looking at digital measures to facilitate fan accessibility to games, as well as create a more intimate relationship between the organization and its fans.

Matthew Jafarian, the Miami Heat’s vice president of digital strategy and innovation, outlined the importance of understanding fans’ needs in the digital age, and how technology can be leveraged to strengthen the relationships sports teams have with their fans.

One of the fundamental problems in sports is not knowing who the fan is,” said Jafarian. Paper tickets are largely anonymous and don’t tell the team who its customers are — “a challenge for any organization” that the organization has countered by upgrading to digital ticketing last season. “Now, 85 percent of our fans enter Heat games with mobile tickets.”

In addition to mobile tickets, the Heat mobile app allows fans to access tickets directly, as well as to navigate parking at the arena. “One in every three Heat fans use our app when visiting the arena, which allows the organization to develop a really close relationship with them,” Jafarian said.

And, “now that we have this great platform, we’re exploring ways to make the fan experience even better, potentially by upgrading our mobile payments feature to a full loyalty program in the near future.”

But these are just a few ways in which sports organizations are widening accessibility, creating more engaged fans and improving the overall fan experience. And Miami’s sports fans can look forward to taking advantage of a growing number of these immersive, often high-tech perks in coming years.

To learn more about our interviewees and efforts being made by their respective organizations to promote fan accessibility, please visit the following:

https://www.mlb.com/marlins

https://www.nba.com/heat/

Lake County Focuses On Small Sports Niches

By staff writer

March 2019

Credit: Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel

The state of Florida has excellent natural geography for outside activities, whether you enjoy going to the beach, theme parks, kayaking or practicing your favorite sports. Lake County is no exception: It’s an ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities, from trail adventures in the surrounding hills to myriad water sports.

To take advantage of their geographic perks, the county’s Agency for Economic Prosperity is focusing on promoting several activities. “There are numerous sports such as cycling and triathlons, which people can enjoy that they wouldn’t be able to experience in the same way in other parts of the state,” Bandon Matulka, executive director of Lake County’s Agency for Economic Prosperity told Invest:.

As part of the county’s efforts to build these sports niches that align with their slogan (Real Florida, Real Close), the agency is in the process of developing several professional-level disc golf courses.

“Disc golf is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and it takes advantage of our natural beauty without being too invasive,” Matulka said. “Through those efforts, we’re hoping to bring large championship-level disc golf events to Lake County,” he added.

There are already three disc golf courses in the Lake County Disc Golf Trail, and they plan to build three new championship courses with two tee pads and two baskets per hole, all of them designed by Disc Golf Hall-of-Famer Gregg Hosfeld of World Championship Disc Golf Design.

In addition, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, Visit Lake and The Florida Region of USA Volleyball recently hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the Athletic Center at Hickory Point Park.

“Hickory Point has become the sporting destination we envisioned four years ago,” said Lake County Commissioner and Tourist Development Council Chairman Tim Sullivan. “This athletic center will pay for itself many times over, attracting athletes and their families to Lake County and encouraging them to discover why we are Real Florida, Real Close.”

The 4,000-square-foot athletic center has a CORA training room, locker rooms, meeting spaces, a concession stand, an officials locker room and public restrooms.

“The 21-court facility is the largest permanent sand volleyball complex in the state, and the Athletic Center will help to further set it apart from other facilities,” Matulka told Invest:. “We have a great partnership with USA Volleyball, and we’re looking to bring championship-level events to that unique facility,” he said.

Lake County has numerous facilities that cater to a wide variety of outdoor sporting events. This year, the county is hosting the 2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships and the  2019 AVCA Small College Beach Championship.

To learn more about our interviewees, please visit:

Agency for Economic Prosperity – Lake County: https://www.lakecountyfl.gov/agencies/economic_prosperity/

 

Digital Transformation

By staff writer

February 2019

Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and Atlanta is quickly becoming a southeastern hub. In 2017, the video game industry had a more than $750 million economic impact in Georgia, and global revenue in 2019 is expected to reach $1 billion. Georgia is currently home to more than 75 gaming companies, including Hi-Rez Studios, based in Alpharetta. Part of the reason for the industry’s staggering growth is its overwhelming appeal to younger generations.

Atlanta will soon welcome its own Overwatch League team. Until this year, the LA-based league hasn’t moved out of its hometown to host games, but the 2019 season will begin in Dallas, TX, in April and then move to Atlanta in July. Atlanta’s first-ever esports teams, dubbed the Atlanta Reign, was purchased last summer through a joint venture by consulting firm Province, Inc. and Cox Enterprises, which together formed Atlanta Esports Ventures.

“[Esports] is outpacing any other sport — traditional or not — by a wide margin,” Paul Hamilton, president and CEO of Atlanta Esports Ventures, told Atlanta magazine. “You’re seeing a huge number of eyes in a demographic that, traditionally, has been hard to reach.”

The Overwatch League copies the format of professional sports leagues and franchises teams by city, providing fans with a home team to route for. The league has a preseason, a regular season, an all-star break and playoffs, just like traditional sports leagues. There are codes of conduct for players and coaches, skilled announcers, loyal fans and primetime spots on television. The league also attracts sponsorships and doles out prize money. In fact, in 2018 the prize pool was a staggering $3.5 million.

Atlanta’s leading gaming proprietors are bullish about the growth potential of the industry and the viable investment opportunity it offers to businesses. The metro area’s higher education institutions are also supporting the industry. For example, in the fall of 2017 Georgia State University launched an esports program, which helps students make the necessary connections to start careers in the industry. And it goes far beyond just being a gamer, including areas like social media management, esports reporting, event management, game testing, team coaching, business strategy, broadcasting and more. In fact, of the program’s inaugural 350 students, only 20 percent had an interest in competing.

In 2019, Hi-Rez Studios co-founder and COO Todd Harris has plans to host SMITE and Paladins Pro League regular-season games at its gaming production studio, Skillshot Media. These games are expected to attract more than 100 professional esports players to the Metro Atlanta area. This follows the November 2018 SMITE and Paladins World Championship, which was held during the first eSports Week at global gaming festival Dreamhack Atlanta. The events spanned three days, attracting more than 31,000 spectators, while another 10 million watched online.

The global esports industry continues to see significant year-over-year growth, generating a tremendous impact for both businesses and post-graduate talent and contributing significantly to Georgia’s economy. And Atlanta is at the heart of it all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping an eye on this exciting digital transformation in 2019 and beyond!

 

A New Identity

By staff writer

February 2019

South Florida’s professional ice hockey team has its sights set on renovating and expanding the War Memorial Auditorium, owned by the City of Fort Lauderdale. The venue found itself in the spotlight last year as the longtime host of the controversial Florida Gun and Knife show, which the city decided not to renew in April following the Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. The lease for the 30-year show ran out in November 2018.

The War Memorial Auditorium opened in January 1950 in Holiday Park as a cultural center, bringing symphony and opera performances, as well as civic and sports functions, to the area. Money to build the venue, which serves as a memorial for veterans and fallen soldiers of World War II, was raised by the community. Tributes to Korean and Vietnam veterans were added later.

The Panthers recently presented the City of Fort Lauderdale with a hefty proposal, looking to spend up to $50 million on renovating the inside of the auditorium to create indoor soccer, lacrosse and other sporting facilities for the area’s youth, as well as adding two ice rinks in the rear. In return for the team bankrolling these renovations, the city would lease the Panthers the space for $1 a year for up to 50 years.

While helping to revamp the area around the auditorium and transforming it into a more family-friendly destination, the Panthers would also have the opportunity to promote the team, grow the sport of hockey and encourage children to participate in a wide variety of sporting activities. The city would benefit from the capital improvements without having to pay for them. It seems like a win-win for both parties.

For the Panthers, community is important to both players and staff. “It’s important whether you’re winning or losing to keep up a steady stream of community work,” Matthew Caldwell, president & CEO of the Florida Panthers, told Invest: when he sat down with our team last year. “We have a culture where our employees are really proud to do all this community and volunteer work. It’s part of our DNA now; we just think that it’s the right thing to do, but we’re also businessmen. We think that, long term, we will create a fan base because we’re building these kinds of relationships.”

Revitalizing the War Memorial Auditorium and bringing family-friendly sporting activities to the neighborhood aligns with this community spirit well. It also puts the Panthers’ name and the sport of hockey in the spotlight. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale will be keeping an eye on the Panthers’ proposal and the city’s response to it in 2019.

For more information on the Florida Panthers, visit https://www.nhl.com/panthers.

For more information on the City of Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium, visit: https://www.fortlauderdale.gov/departments/parks-recreation/war-memorial-auditorium

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/