With the start of the WNBA season in the middle of the NBA Playoffs (nice strategy there NBA) it got me thinking about a long forgotten team that used to roam the AmericanAirlines Arena floor.
The Miami Sol
In April of 1996 the NBA Board of Governors created the Women’s National Basketball Association in an attempt to capitalize on the growing popularity of the game and pre-empting the 1996 Summer Olympics which would see both American Men and Women basketball teams win Gold in Atlanta. The league would start out with eight teams that were known as sister franchises. The Miami Heat would not receive a sister franchise until 2000 when the Miami Sol was created. The "Sol" name is Spanish for "Sun" and the Heat and WNBA creative service teams designed the logo for the WNBA expansion team. The team colors were the same as the Heat with red, yellow-orange, black, and white. The primary logo featured a SOL wordmark with a WNBA ball filing the "O" and MIAMI above Sol. Behind the words is a flaming sun. The secondary logo featured an "S" with the flaming sun behind it.
The Sol had 2 sets of uniforms. The home jersey and shorts were in white with black trim around the neck and arm cuts, yellow stripe with black outline on the shoulders, and red stripe with black outline on the sides. The shorts featured the "S" logo on one leg and red stripes with black outlines on the sides. The away jersey followed the same template as the home except it was primarily red and the jersey featured shoulder stripes in yellow with white outlines, and side stripes in black with white outlines. The shorts side stripes were yellow with white outlines.
Reception to the Sol was positive at first with the team achieving over 6000 season ticket holders. Fans from throughout South Florida cited the pricing compared to seeing the Heat was better for family outings. The team named Ron Rothstein as the team’s head coach. Rothstein also was the Heat’s first head coach and would return as a Heat assistant a couple of years after his Sol tenure. The team mascot was Solee the Macaw. The Sol played at AmericanAirlines Arena (back when the seats were mustard yellow) and achieved average attendance figures of 7,983 (1999), 8,840 (2001) and 8,828 (2002) ranking 9th, 6th, and 7th respectively in the 16 team league. On the court the team went 13-19 in 2000, made their only playoff appearance in 2001 with a 20-12 record but lost in the first round to the New York Liberty 2 games to 1 in the best of 3 series. (Hey lost to New York going to the max amount of games just like the Heat).
The team would fail to produce enough revenue to meet the WNBA restructuring agreement and the Arison family would cede control of the franchise to the league in 2002. The NBA and WNBA then folded the franchise when they could not find a new owner for the team. The Sol may have been a victim of the South Florida sports landscape of the time. Think about it. In 2002 the Miami Heat were in a rebuilding period after the end of the Mourning era of Heat teams that failed to win an NBA title. The Florida Marlins were at the bottom of the MLB barrel with possible talks of contracting the team after low attendance lingered from the fire sale of the 1997 championship team. The Florida Panthers had their worst season in franchise history in the early part of what would be a decade-long playoff drought. And the Miami Dolphins were also beginning a decade long bout with mediocrity in 2002 after another one-and-done playoff appearance the year before. Things were not good for any of the teams in South Florida and the Sol failed to make the playoffs in their last season. Who knows how things might have changed under different circumstances maybe the Sol would have stayed. Also maybe the sports and economic landscape could open the doors once again for another Sol or WNBA team in South Florida.