MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Commissioners were all for soccer Tuesday.
“We want to make sure it happens, but in the right place,” declared Commission Chairman Rebeca Sosa.
“You got to have facilities,” proclaimed Commissioner Dennis Moss, saying they’re needed to attract world-class competitions.
“Soccer! Soccer!” chanted Commissioner Javier Souto.
Commissioners, one after the other, voiced support for soccer in Miami, owned and operated by superstar David Beckham.
But they faced a withering opposition to Beckham’s plans for a stadium on now vacant land at PortMiami. The proposal was relentlessly hounded by a group, the Miami Seaport Alliance, that ran a massive print and broadcast campaign against the port site, saying it would disrupt cargo and passenger operations, cause traffic jams and endanger the $27 billion contribution the port makes to the community, along with more than 200,000 good-paying jobs. The effort was lead by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, whose headquarters borders the site Beckham coveted.
“I would hope that the commission, in its wisdom, would take the port property off the table once and for all,” said Miami Seaport Alliance spokesman John Fox as he addressed commissioners.
In the end, this motion from Chairman Sosa, who relinquished the gavel to propose: “We eliminate the port site as an option for the stadium.”
In a 12-1 vote, commissioners knocked the knockout Beckham’s hopes for a stadium at the port out of the park.
Still, Beckham representatives were downright giddy in a meeting with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez Monday night.
Gimenez, a huge Beckham booster, saw Tuesday’s defeat of the port site coming, and brought Miami’s Mayor Regalado on board for a new site, still on the water, but not at the port. It would see a soccer stadium go up on what is now a water-filled ship slip that sits between the American Airlines Arena and the new Perez Art Museum on the bay. The slip is owned by Miami. The project would also include what is now a county-owned peace of property, north of the ship slip.
“What I saw I really liked, because it ensures the city of Miami will get more park land,” Regalado said. “It will get more park land on the waterfront.”
The potential park land is now vacant and unaccessable.
The Beckham group likes it, and is ready to spend the millions of dollars it would take to fill in the now water-filled ship slip.
John Alschuler, a lead player in the group, Miami Beckham United, said Beckham continues to pledge that “this stadium is brought to Miami at no cost to any taxpayer of the city and no cost to any taxpayer of the county.”
A lot would have to be worked out, including a lease deal for the property. Beckham’s people promise to pay top dollar.
The county, which owns the vacant property north of the proposed stadium site, would have to agree to deed it over to the city.
By law, Miami voters would have to approve the deal in the August or November elections. Regalado said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the details can be worked out in time for the August primary, and the vote would have to wait for November’s general election.
Gimenez expressed confidence the project will clear all the necessary hurdles.
“I think that the poeple of Miami will vote in favor of it. I’m hopeful for plan “A,” but if it doesn’t pan out, we’ve got to look for a plan “B” and a plan “C,” Gimenez said.
Other plans don’t appear to be an option, however. Major League Soccer has said the franchise is dependent on a stadium being located downtown, and no other viable downtown location has been identified.