Up Rears The Pink Elephant

Palm Beach, Fla., businessman Glenn Straub is making overtures that he may be finished with his experiment of returning the Miami Arena to prominence.

Straub purchased the venue at auction December 2004 with a vow that he would give it a two-year opportunity to turn a profit.

Straub paid $28 million for the unusually colored arena – known to some locals as The Pink Elephant because of its financial troubles throughout its 16-year history.

The owner of the Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club outbid his only competitor, Miami parking lot king Jacob “Hank” Sopher, to get the keys to the shuttered arena.

Straub calmed rumors that he would raze the arena, saying he would renovate and keep it open for two years of events before looking at alternatives.

Some in the community questioned his resolve because of his background in the business community. His past includes a suit filed against him by his brother for alleged shady business practices and an incident at the polo field, where spectators cheered when Straub fell off a horse.

But the person he outbid, Sopher, told The Miami Herald that Straub genuinely believed he could compete with the newer AmericanAirlines Arena, just three blocks away.

“I told him when he bought that, ‘You will lose $4 or $5 million a year,'” the parking lot king said. “He thought he was Mr. Barnum & Bailey. He had to learn the hard way.”

Twelve months after his purchase, Straub has witnessed a development boom in the area of his facility.

Meanwhile, the arena remains an albatross.

Straub was shooting for one year instead of the originally reported two, according to an interview with the Herald.

“I said we will try it for a year and that is what we did,” Straub told the Herald. “We said we needed 105 dates to break even. We did 88.”

He has stopped accepting bookings because he loses less on dark nights, and put his one-year losses in the $5 million range, as Sopher had predicted.

He added that he would consider a joint venture or sale to a party that is interested in further pursuing the original goal.

“I don’t want to be known as the guy who tears things down.”

Luxury high-rise condos are already being constructed in the area, the Herald said.

The Miami Arena was home to the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers and University of Miami’s men’s basketball team, but saw decreasing business since 1998 – especially with the migration of the Heat to the AmericanAirlines Arena.