Crypto industry to get first major U.S. stadium with Miami-Dade County approving FTX for Heat home
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on March 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves | Getty Images
A city trying to rebrand itself as the center of the crypto world could soon have a cryptocurrency exchange emblazoned on the stadium of its NBA franchise.
FTX has won the naming rights to the entertainment venue currently known as American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat. The deal, approved by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners on Friday, is for $135 million over 19 years.
The NBA still needs to approve the deal before it becomes official, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said in an email. The NBA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Heat declined to comment.
The company now joins a long, and sometimes checkered, history of firms with stadium naming rights. Some brands become synonymous with their franchises, like Gillette and the New England Patriots or Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers.
For other companies, however, the naming rights served as billboards that reminded audiences of their struggles. Sports Authority had to bail on its sponsorship of the NFL’s Broncos stadium after it went bankrupt in 2016.
Enron famously had the rights to the MLB’s Houston Astros stadium before an accounting scandal brought down the company. And in Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy’s branding is still on the basketball arena for the NBA’s Thunder, even after the company filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
The dot-com era two decades ago provides even more fodder for naming rights gone wrong. Tech company CMGI was the original sponsor of what would become Gillette Stadium, but had to scale back that agreement after its stock tanked, according to a CNN report at the time. Now-defunct companies Adelphia and PSINet also had NFL stadium naming rights near the turn of the century.
Politicians and business leaders in the Miami region have worked over the past year to make the company a welcoming environment for tech and crypto firms. Francis Suarez, the mayor of the City of Miami, told CNBC last month that Miami is “positioning ourselves as a city as one of the most tech-friendly cities in America” and has announced that city employees can choose to be paid in bitcoin.
Many of the commissioners and Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, praised the agreement that the funds from the deal that could be used for initiatives to curb poverty and gun violence. A few of of the commissioners, including Rebeca Sosa, raised concerns about awarding the rights to a young company that has a limited U.S. presence, but the deal passed with an overwhelming majority.
FTX is an international cryptocurrency exchange that does not operate in the U.S and has more products than its counterpart, FTX US. Bankman-Fried said the two are separate companies and he is the majority shareholder of both.
The Miami Heat have been one of the most successful NBA franchises in recent years, appearing in 5 NBA Finals since 2010 and winning two titles.