One of South Florida’s most famous buildings will get a new name. The Miami Heat will soon play in the FTX Arena after Miami-Dade County approved a multi-million dollar deal to change the name.
NBC 6 spoke with FTX’s CEO Sam Bankman-Fried last week, from his home in Hong Kong.
He said the new name is another step in making the cryptocurrency company mainstream and a boost to efforts in South Florida to make Miami the next tech hub.
"I think they’re making a pretty compelling play for it,” Bankman-Fried said.
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The $135 million deal was overwhelmingly passed on the Miami-Dade County commission.
The contract will be with FTX.us, the American company under FTX, a company operating similar to a stock market for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Bankman-Fried said the fact FTX is following in the footsteps of major companies - American Airlines, Tropicana, Amway - is a signal cryptocurrency is here for the long haul.
"I wouldn’t say it’s gone fully in the mainstream but it’s starting to make real steps in that direction,” said Bankman-Fried, one of the world’s youngest tech multi-millionaires.
Many in South Florida, including city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, are on a quest to make Miami the next tech hub.
While there are critics of the effort, Bankman-Fried told NBC 6 he is a believer and wants the soon-to-be FTX Arena to help encourage people to try cryptocurrencies out.
"One piece of this is we’re really trying to get our name out there,” he said. "We feel pretty good about our product. We feel good about if people are interested in trying out crypto and give it a chance, they’ll like it."
In a statement released Wednesday, Eric Woolworth, President of The HEAT Group’s Business Operations, said "FTX.us is an exciting, young company in an emerging category of the financial services industry that continues to grow at lightning speed, and we are ecstatic to welcome them with open arms to the Magic City. This is a ground-breaking, first-of-its-kind partnership in our industry that will draw global attention."
He went on to say, “This trailblazing new partnership with FTX.us would not have been possible without the visionary leadership and pragmatic approach of Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. We would like to thank Mayor Cava as well as her Chief Operations Officer Jimmy Morales and the Board of County Commissioners for their efforts in ensuring the continued success of our enduring public/private partnership with Miami-Dade County.”
But there were some concerns when Miami-Dade commissioners voted on the deal including the stability of the new industry and how three of the company’s minority owners live in China.
Commissioner Rene Garcia opposed the measure, saying commissioners only had a few days to review it.
“We are expected to go through a contract in a couple of hours. That, my friends, is something I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a $135 million deal," Garcia said.
However, the deal passed 10 to 1. The county will get around $90 million dollars, much of it dedicated to preventing gun violence.
Commissioners representing areas impacted by gun violence gave impassioned speeches supporting the deal.
“It doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to save every life," Commissioner Jean Monestime said. “It is telling us at least, we’ve done our jobs. Our heart is in the right place. Our mind is envisioning the right thing to do.”
Bankman-Fried told NBC 6 he hopes to build on this investment by working to help local businesses accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
“Make it a real option and a real alternative for those who the current options aren’t serving them well,” Bankman-Fried said.
The CEO was one of the largest donors to President Joe Biden’s effort for the presidency but told NBC 6 he has no plans to get heavily involved in South Florida politics.
As for Miami?
"It’s really becoming a hub. For cryptocurrency specifically and for technology more generally," Bankman-Fried said.