With Lionel Messi scheduled to make his U.S. soccer debut on Friday, South Florida businesses are gearing up for Messi Mania, and the possibility that the immediate economic impact of his arrival is muted than they expected.
At first glance, Miami has rolled out the welcome mat for the Argentine soccer star, with multiple parts of the city festooned with murals and graffiti of Messi in black, white and pink, the colors of his new team, Inter Miami FC.
But a Ticketmaster review on Friday showed plenty of tickets available on the resale market for the Argentine legend’s projected first game with Inter Miami FC, with prices dipping below $200, about $50 less than Thursday.
The team has announced that Messi is likely to come off the bench for the evening game against Mexico City-based Cruz Azul, part of the League Cup tournament featuring teams from MLS and Liga MX.
A host of factors at the outset can ultimately mitigate the financial impact of the event.
Friday’s game takes place in the height of summer, historically when South Florida’s tourist season comes to a halt.
Messi also lands in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave that has seen Miami’s heat index hit records more than 20 times in the past 35 days. according to the Miami Herald.
Data from CoStar commercial real estate data and analytics group showed Miami hotel bookings were little changed from the same dates this time last year.
While the best seats for Friday’s game fetched prices of nearly $16,500 on StubHub on Thursday, there were plenty of seats left. Many of the tickets being sold appear to be scalpers, meaning existing ticket holders are looking to capitalize on the allure of the phenomenon.
Although Messi’s arrival in Miami has been expected for years, his The actual signing, completed last Saturday, caught Emi Guerra, co-founder of Breakwater Hospitality Group, which owns several bars and restaurants in South Florida, by surprise.
Guerra declined to comment Thursday on the reservation activity he was seeing at his restaurants ahead of the debut, though he said the interest on social media boded well for attendance; Team co-owner David Beckham said this week that Messi’s official presentation on Sunday garnered 3.5 billion total views between impressions on social media and viewers and online.
An unlikely beneficiary of Messi Mania may be the city of Fort Lauderdale, about 40 minutes north of Miami, in neighboring Broward County. That’s because Messi will play at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium, which adjoins Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
But the drive, and the lack of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, may make for a more subdued welcome there.
Tim Petriello, a Fort Lauderdale-based restaurateur, said that as tourism in South Florida has slowed from its late-pandemic highs, any interest in the area would be welcome.
“It’s been a little difficult organizing anything, but we understand,” Petriello said Thursday, explaining that he hadn’t ultimately hosted any viewing parties at their venues. “But we still want to be a part of this and we want to be supportive.”
In an interview, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the 36-year-old Messi could play out the rest of his career in that city given that the current estimated timeline for completing an Inter Miami stadium in Miami is 2025 at the earliest.
But Trantalis acknowledged that it was still too early to assess the full impact of Messi’s arrival on the local economy, although he insisted that local hotel bookings had increased. CoStar did not have any data on Fort Lauderdale’s reserves.
«There has definitely been an increase in demand,» Trantalis said.
There is no doubt about the enthusiasm that Messi can generate within the global football community. Google showed a clear increase on Friday in searches for Inter Miami compared to last Thursday and Friday, especially in Latin American countries.
While South Florida is home to hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans, and a tourist destination for many more, it was not immediately clear which contingent would travel to see it in person on Friday.
A spokesman for Argentina’s Aerolíneas Argentinas SA, the country’s leading carrier, said that while demand is always historically strong for flights to Miami, the company has yet to make any additional accommodations for the crowd ahead of Friday’s game, though future games could be an attraction.
«Everybody wants to see it,» said Marcelo Bottini, regional director of Aerolíneas Argentinas.