MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hoping not to have county officials red card his plans for a Major League Soccer team and stadium in Miami, retired soccer great David Beckham is back in South Florida.
On Wednesday, he held individual meetings with several commissioners at Miami-Dade County Hall.
His representatives confirmed that Beckham and his team were meeting one-on-one with key stakeholders and elected officials during the visit but declined to name names.
Beckham’s group has run into mounting resistance to building a 25,000 seat open air stadium at their number one site pick – PortMiami.
“We still want to build a stadium that is 20, 25, possibly 30-thousand but I’ll take a 25-thousand seat stadium in an iconic location,” said Beckham as he left one of the meetings. “One of the reasons why we’ve always said we loved the Port of Miami, in my eyes, because it fits the vision of what we want to create and what we want to create for the people of Miami and the City of Miami.”
Not everyone feels the same way.
A group called Miami Seaport Alliance has taken out television, radio, and digital ads against building a stadium there. The alliance consists of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Norman Braman, Florida Foreign Trade Association and the Latin American Business Association among other groups.
The alliance claims having soccer games at the port would disrupt normal port operations which generate over $27 billion dollars a year in economic activity. Beckham’s group counters that the alliance is really just Royal Caribbean trying to preserve it space at the port and that a careful review would show that soccer there would help, not harm, the port.
On Monday, May 5th, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez upended the negotiations with Beckham’s group when he proposed that they build their stadium on the downtown Miami waterfront.
As an alternative, Gimenez proposed filling a massive boat slip between Museum Park and AmericanAirlines Arena, which, according to the mayor, would create enough new land for a stadium as well as a pedestrian walkway along Biscayne Bay.
Beckham said Wednesday when asked about the boat slip site, “It’s another site, I wouldn’t say it’s the preferred site but it’s a very good option, likewise with the Port of Miami. We’ve had a couple of meetings with certain people and listened to the concerns and listened to the worries. At the end of the day, we want to please the people of Miami. It’s one of the reasons why we are funding the stadium and it’s one of the reasons why my investors will be putting up and myself will be putting up a quarter of a billion dollars to bring a stadium to Miami that the people of Miami will be proud of.”
Beckham stressed that he doesn’t want the stadium to be a negative for the city, only a positive.
“It’s one of the things that we’ve always said from day one that we don’t want local taxpayers money, we want to be a positive for the city, we want to be someone that’s coming in here and giving back to the city that actually deserves a great soccer team. We’ve said that we would fund the stadium, and the funding of filling the site in, the funding of the stadium is something that we feel very passionate about, so if that is to be a possible site than I think it’s a positive one.”
Beckham’s team has said it will examine the feasibility of filling the slip and building a stadium at the Miami waterfront location.
Other potential sites include land adjacent to the Miami Marlins’ ballpark in Little Havana; however, Beckham wants the stadium to be near water.
“It’s something I’ve said so many times that every weekend when the images are beamed across not just America but also the world, I want them to see Miami exactly how I see it and how many people see it which is an exciting place with vibrant people and passionate people and that’s why I believe the stadium needs to be downtown and needs to be on the water but like I said, we have other options, we have looked at other options and when people have asked me about my preferred site, I’ve always said it has to be on the water.”
The boat slip property is owned by the city of Miami, which would have to sell it or convey it to the county. The city charter requires a public vote over the use of any waterfront property. Gimenez said municipal attorneys would have to determine if a vacant slip falls under that provision.
Developers have long eyed the slip as one of the last remaining bayfront properties. At one point, the Marlins considered it as a possible location for their ballpark. But they nixed the idea as cost-prohibitive because of the millions of dollars it would take to pump out water and fill the site with rock trucked in from elsewhere.