How a Heat playoff victory could jam Miami traffic into the next century

On Thurs., April 27, 2017 confetti rains down on more than 28,000 runners during the start of the 33rd Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park. Carl Juste

If the Miami Heats wins its playoff game in Philadelphia Tuesday night, give a loud cheer for South Florida’s team. Then, if you have any business at all in downtown Miami Thursday night, make sure to write out a will and goodbye letters to your loved ones and stick them in your pocket, so that decades from now, when archaeological crews finish excavating the Great Miami Traffic Jam Of 2018, they’ll be able to identify your dusty skeleton, hands still clutching your rusting car’s desiccated steering wheel.

Because that victory would mean that the Heat, instead of being eliminated from the NBA playoffs, would play again on Thursday night at the American Airlines Arena — literally right in the middle of the Mercedes Benz Corporate Run.

That will mean about 20,000 basketball fans will be scrambling to enter the same few blocks of downtown Miami at the same time as 25,000 or so runners. (Never mind the crowds to see the Broadway musical Fun Home at the Arsht Center or a concert by mambo artist Tito Puente Jr. at Government Center.) And they’ll be doing it on a mangled gridscape of 13 street closures.

Miami police and the race organizers breezily insist that there won’t be any traffic problems at all. South Floridians themselves, accustomed to the bizarre transportation whimsies of a region where automobiles sometimes come equipped with female twerkers on the roof, where a (presumably) irate customer tossed an alligator into the drive-in window of a Wendy’s. and where a dead shark was discovered riding a Miami Metro Mover train, were less certain.

“Even on a regular day, the police are already reduced to doing traffic triage downtown,” said Miami filmmaker Billy Corben.

Cops, nonetheless, say they’re been preparing for heavy traffic on Thursday for a long time and they aren’t worried even a little bit.

“We’re ready for it, we have plans in place for these types of events,” said Freddie Cruz, commander of the Miami Police Department’s public information section. “We’ll have the personnel on hand — there will be police officers assigned to each event, and they’ll deal with it accordingly…

“One year, the corporate race came during the middle of the Ultra Music Festival, and that worked out. Everything will work out this time, too.”

Laurie Huseby, the owner of the South Miami running store FootWorks and the organizer of the Corporate Run, is equally confident — maybe even a little more so, since she thinks the Heat are going to lose the Tuesday night game and be eliminated. (“Yeah, and I don’t care if it makes Heat fans mad.”)

“We went up against a [popular New Age artist] Yanni concert during the race one year and it went OK,” she said. “I worry a lot more about rain. That’s fun for the runners, but it’s a nightmare for the organizers.”

This is the 34th year of the Corporate Run, and Huseby has seen plenty of near-disasters, including the infamous raising of a drawbridge just as the runners were approaching it. The bridge stayed up just two minutes or so, but when you’ve got runners stacking up on one another from the rear, that’s a lonnnnnng time.

“I remember my [run co-organizer] husband John saying, ‘If I didn’t die of a heart attack here, I will never die of a heart attack,'” Huseby said. “Of course, he did die of a heart attack a couple of years later.”

Tipoff time for a prospective playoff game hasn’t been set, but is expected to be somewhere around 7 p.m. The Corporate Run, which covers 3.1 miles, will start at 6:45 p.m. But for some of the plus-size folks who participate it’s more of a corporate waddle and the last one will probably finish around 8:15. After there’s extensive partying at the buffets and bars inside the huge tents companies set up for their runners. The crowd won’t dissipate much before 9 p.m.

“I think people will plan for this, and they’ll come early, by Metro train or Uber or whatever,” Huseby said. “Everybody will try to get to the run by 4 p.m. instead of 5 or 5:30….Leave work early. It’s only one day! Tell your boss to let out everybody early.”