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Heat’s home ‘set to become’ FTX Arena, vaccinated fans gain special access

Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena is set to be renamed under a proposed new sponsorship agreement with the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, while the NBA basketball team has said it will dedicate certain sections of the venue to fans who have received COVID-19 vaccinations.

First reported earlier this month, the Miami Herald newspaper has now said a Miami-Dade County Commission has been set for Friday to approve the arena naming rights deal. The venue has been known as AmericanAirlines Arena since it opened in December 1999, with the agreement naming it FTX Arena representing the growing presence of cryptocurrency in the sports industry.

The Herald said the deal will result in an undisclosed amount of yearly payments from FTX to Miami-Dade, which controls naming rights to the arena while the Heat markets other sponsorship for the venue.

Miami-Dade gains all naming rights revenue, but has to pay the Heat $2m (£1.46m/€1.69m) per year under an option the county took up in 2018 to secure the arena’s next naming rights partner. FTX is said to have agreed final terms with Miami-Dade, with Friday’s meeting set to give the legislative approval to rubber stamp the deal.

AmericanAirlines announced in 2019 that it would not extend its $2m per year deal once it ended in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Heat has continued its innovative approach to reopening during COVID-19 by announcing that from the April 1 game against Golden State Warriors, two sections of the AmericanAirlines Arena’s lower bowl will be opened up only to fully vaccinated fans.

The Associated Press news agency said masks will still be required in these areas, but social distancing rules will be eased. The NBA is said to have told teams last week that such sections would be permitted under specific conditions, and in-line with local and state health and safety guidelines.

If any of the sections provided by teams include seats within 30 feet of the court, fans in those seats will need to take a PCR test two days before a game or an approved antigen test on game day.

In the two sections used by the Heat, pods of fans will be separated by just one seat. Fans will enter the arena through a dedicated gate and be required to show their Centers for Disease Control vaccination card, or proof thereof, along with valid ID. Fans will need to have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days to be eligible.

In January, COVID-19 Detection Dogs made their debut as Heat fans returned to AmericanAirlines Arena, with the team maintaining their deployment is only one element of their venue safety strategy.

Image: Phillip Pessar/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size