By Michelle Kaufman
So you want to see a Heat game? You want to get up-close and personal with D-Wade and Udonis? Here are some tips:
Tickets: The most reliable source for tickets is heat.com, 1-800-4NBA-TIX or Ticketmaster. You can also get seats through brokers, eBay, and, if you’re willing to take the risk, from scalpers outside the arena.
Parking: Bring a wad of cash or a pair of walking sneakers. The covered arena garage is reserved for premium and club-seat holders. You can valet park for $40 – about what it costs to self-park in public lots directly across Biscayne Boulevard from the arena. If you arrive more than two hours before the game, prices tend to be cheaper in the closest lots and then escalate as game time approaches. Other lots a few blocks south and west off Biscayne Blvd. typically range from $20-$40. If you’re willing to walk, you can find lots in the $10-$15 range near Miami Arena, but if it’s late at night after games, it’s best not to walk alone.
If you plan to attend many games and have $600, you can get a season pass from the Miami Parking Authority for Municipal Lot No. 19 (Biscayne Boulevard., between NE 5th and 1st streets) or Lot No.3 (190 NE 3 St.).
You can also park by the hour at the Bayside Marketplace garage (entrances on Biscayne Boulevard and Port Boulevard., just south of the arena), but you’ll likely encounter traffic tie-ups leaving the garage after the game. The best option might be taking the MetroRail to the MetroMover, which is a great way to avoid traffic and mingle with fans before and after games. Take the MetroRail to the Government Center station, switch to MetroMover’s Omni loop and get off by Park West/Freedom Tower. Trains run until midnight.
Eats: The American Airlines Arena boasts some of the best and most varied arena food in pro sports. Folks sitting in the suites and lounges dine on stone crabs, sushi, beef tenderloin and scrumptious desserts. But the regular food’s far from shabby. The Wok Stop has yummy Asian noodle dishes (chopsticks included), the Sushi Stop features California rolls and spicy tuna rolls, the Samba Cart has pinchos (kabobs) and plantains, and the Mexi-Go Cart lets you make your own tacos.
Hot seats: If you want to sit center court, buy tickets in sections 106 and 107 or sections 118 and 119 (approx. $100-$250). If you want to hear Erik Spoelstra’s instructions, sit behind the Heat bench in Section 108 ($100-$250). If you want to heckle from behind the visitor’s bench, pick seats in Section 105. Celebrities often sit in the first few rows of seats behind the baskets. If you’re picking upper-deck seats, sections 307-310 or 323-326 ($30-$80) have the best sightlines. Cheapest tickets are the $10 standing-room only spots in the 400 level. Bring binoculars and comfy shoes.
A little something extra: It’s tough to get player autographs because fans don’t have access to any areas where the players mingle, and the player parking lot is guarded. But sometimes players will stop and sign, slap high-fives or throw their sweat bands as they leave the court. Seats in sections 114 and 123 will put you close to the fray. Ushers are under strict orders to keep fans away from players, and a few players also have personal security guards (Even Shaq has a guard), so don’t try to get past them.