MIAMI - Customers were watching the World Cup at Elia restaurant Tuesday afternoon, but because the business is located directly across the street from the Miami Arena, owner Dimitris Harvalis said basketball is his bread and butter.
"And all the hype it creates, a lot more people come down here for that, even on the away games when they do the road rallies, it definitely helps the business," Harvalis said.
According to experts, the entire economy of Miami-Dade County can attribute some of its success to the Miami Heat.
"It is quite significant," said Tony Villamil, CEO of the Washington Economics Group, a boutique economic advisory firm in Coral Gables, which studied the impact of the Miami Heat on South Florida in 2012, when the team was negotiating its lease of the AmericanAirlines Arena with the county.
Villamil's study determined the team is directly responsible for 10,000 jobs, including team employees and arena workers, and indirectly responsible for another 11,000 jobs by hiring local companies to support its operation and maintain the facility.
But the real money impact of the Miami Heat comes in what Villamil calls "the spillover effect," which is the national exposure that all of South Florida gets when the team drives deep into the playoffs.
"If you look at other locations, for example, in the playoffs, you see an arena and a parking lot, in other states. Here you see Biscayne Bay, you see the boats, you see everything, so that acts like a tourist advertising program," he said.
Villamil told Local 10 News that the Miami Heat, through its location, its management team and its success on the court, have branded Miami as a sports/entertainment capital of the Americas, and LeBron James has been key to that success.
The team's total contribution, Villamil determined, is $1.4 billion a year. It's why business owners are watching the NBA free agency very closely, hoping they come away with a max deal of their own.
"It's a big issue right now and we hope he (LeBron James) stays. We will definitely benefit from that," Harvalis said.
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