MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In a ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami Thursday, supporters of David Beckham’s plans for a Major League Soccer stadium in the city were singing their voices out.
“Vamos Miami!” – Go Miami! – the group sang, wearing MLS jerseys and waving league banners.
Beckham’s billionaire buddy and partner in the soccer team effort, Marcelo Claure, stood before a bank of television cameras and unveiled artist renderings of a soccer stadium surrounded by beautiful parks on Biscayne Boulevard, a vision of landscaped loveliness on the bay. The stadium and parks would be crafted on what is now a water-filled, abandoned boatslip, sandwiched between the American Airlines Arena on the south and a stark, un-maintained Museum Park on the north.
“We believe now that we have found the right location,” said Claure.
Beckham’s group had wanted a stadium built on vacant PortMiami property with a water and skyline view, but Miami-Dade commissioners this week said no. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado got on board with Beckham, the soccer rockstar, supporting the “Plan B” on the bay.
It would go on land now owned by the city, and would expand museum park by 20%, opening up more park on now fallow land east of the Triple A that is owned by the county.
The project would complete the baywalk the entire length of downtown. It would require county commissioners to say okay, and a positive vote of Miami residents. Beckham welcomes bending it at the ballot box.
“This is the peoples’ team, and we need the peoples’ voice to show that they want soccer in Miami.” said Claure.
The waterfront park and stadium drew support from a major downtown fixture, the Intercontinental Hotel.
“It’s just going to create this great waterfront in our city,” said the Intercontinental’s General Manager Robert Hill.
Concerned about traffic and congestion, however, some downtown residents are ready to battle Beckham’s bunch.
“I don’t think we need that kind of density in the downtown area because there are so many other places,” said David Pina of the group, the Downtown Homeowners’ Alliance. “I think it would be great by Marlins Park, it would create a true sports complex.”
Beckham and Major League soccer have made it clear, however, that they will only play in downtown Miami…or someone else’s downtown.
It’s thought some environmentalists and green space activists will oppose the stadium/park plan, but so far haven’t been eager to reject it out of hand.
Maggie Fernandez, a member of Miami’s Parks Advisory Board, said Thursday that she remains open to Beckham’s plan if she can be convinced it really will create vibrant park space on water front land that is now neglected and, in part, not used at all. Fernandez said she is impressed, too, that the Beckham plan would provide public access to the waterfront and open up the baywalk the length of the downtown area. She said she hopes the Parks Advisory Board will take up the issue and reach a thoughtful decision.
Another parks activist, Steve Hagan, said he might support the proposal if the stadium itself is erected close to Biscayne Boulevard and not on the water, leaving the bayfront accessible to the public. That is exactly the arrangement laid out by Beckham’s group Thursday.
Beckham lost his bid for a stadium at the Port of Miami because very wealthy interests spent a boat load in a sophisticated print and broadcast campaign to oppose it. No similarly deep pockets have emerged – as yet – to oppose the bayfront location.