MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The grass-filled lot just west of Marlins Park is already a popular spot for locals to play soccer.
On Wednesday night, men and children played a friendly game despite the persistent drizzle of a summer rainstorm.
But their playing days in that spot may be numbered, as a Miami-Dade County Commissioner is kicking around the idea of having professionals set up shop there instead.
“Right now it’s the only publicly owned site that could fit and meets the requirements of Major League Soccer and of the Beckham Group,” Commissioner Xavier Suarez told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. “They want something in or near downtown. This is very close to downtown.”
The site is in Little Havana, to be exact, about two miles from the downtown waterfront location David Beckham and his bunch of investors had in mind for a proposed soccer stadium to go along with the expansion team he plans to bring to South Florida.
“A lot of people would like to be downtown next to the bay,” Suarez said. “But there’s only so much bay and our people want to use it.”
Now that the county has killed a plan to build the stadium at PortMiami and the city has squashed a proposal to fill in this boat slip between American Airlines Arena and the newly-opened Museum Park, Commissioner Suarez said the spot next to Marlins Park is the only feasible option, despite reports that Beckham’s group isn’t interested.
“If you have a better idea of location than this, let me know about it and I’ll support that, if the people in the area want it,” Suarez said.
His plan calls for closing off 16th Avenue and acquiring some existing apartment buildings.
Resident Javier Erazo said he’s all for a soccer stadium, but not at the expense of his home.
He said Marlins Park was a blessing, because he often charges people to park in the area on game days. But the soccer stadium is a different story.
“If they build that place here, we won’t be here,” Erazo said. “Everybody will be gone. This situation would benefit other people, but not for us.”
The plan could benefit the University of Miami, if it jumps on board with the idea to share the 40,000-seat stadium to host home football games.
Suarez’s vision includes an idea for tailgating underneath the canopy provided when the retractable roof at Marlins Park is open.
He says a lot of the necessary infrastructure is already in place, but it’s possible that won’t be enough to keep the soccer star and his wealthy friends interested in bringing Major League Soccer to the Magic City.
“That’s always a fear,” he said. “You hope that our leaders roll out the red carpet to the right place. This is the right place.”
So far, Suarez said he has the backing of three commissioners, including his son, and the mayor of Miami.
What he doesn’t yet have is the support of Beckham’s group, which declined to comment on the specifics of the proposal Wednesday.