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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – David Beckham’s billionaire partner did a day of media interviews Tuesday, and Beckham made a web appearance urging support of a plan to build a soccer stadium, and more, on the city of Miami’s Melreese Golf Course.
“We’re taking one hundred percent of the risk, and we’re financing one hundred percent privately,” said Beckham’s partner Jorge Mas in his Coral Gables office Tuesday.
The project on the golf course adjoining Miami International airport would include the soccer stadium, a hotel, more than a million square feet of office and retail space, a huge public park, and 23 acres of soccer fields.
“It’ll be open to the public, open to all. We anticipate there will be youth soccer leagues and it will be youth oriented, and it will be free,” Mas said.
The Beckham project would pay nearly $50 million a year in rent and taxes according to the former soccer star’s group and Miami city management.
And Mas said there is gravy on top of that for the city.
“It’s going to generate 2,300 permanent jobs and 11,000 temporary jobs. So I think the economic benefits it can bring to our city are extraordinarily positive,” Mas said.
But there is no lack of opposition. Former Miami Heat player Ray Allen, the hero in the team’s 2013 NBA championship, posted on Instagram, “now is the time to speak up!! If you want to keep this beautiful plot of land as it is.”
David Beckham took to the web Tuesday in a video tweeted out by Mas.
He called for the public’s support when Miami city commissioners vote Thursday on whether to put the proposed project on city land to a required vote of the people in November.
“We need your support and your voices to be heard as we present our plan for Miami’s future home for Major League Soccer to the city of Miami commissioners,” Beckham said in the on line video.
A majority of the five city commissioners would have to approve putting the issue to a vote of the people.
One commissioner went on record months ago against the Melreese plan.
“It’s a green space. We need to maintain green space,” Commissioner Willy Gort told CBS4 News in March.
Gort and Commissioner Manolo Reyes are on record they will vote no this week on a soccer referendum.
Commissioners Joe Carollo and Keon Hardemon are likely yes votes, according to sources in city hall and in the Beckham organization, which has been lobbying commissioners.
That would leave Commissioner Ken Russell the likely swing vote, who hasn’t decided.
“Honestly, I’m doing research at this point to learn everything I can from all sides,” Russell said.
Major opposition has come from supporters of the First Tee golf program for children at Melreese, that also teaches character values to thousands of kids a year, most at no charge.
Mas vows they will not be evicted.
“My promise to the First Tees is you will not be displaced. You will have a home within this project at Melreese. We will make your program better,” Mas said.
If the question goes to the ballot, the Beckham group feels sure it will win. They have already hired a campaign manager and Mas said the group is prepared to spend “hundreds of thousands” of dollars to convince Miami voters the plan is a good deal for taxpayers, the city’s quality of life and youth.
The Beckham group released polling Tuesday that shows a large majority of those expected to vote would support the Melreese project.
The polling, commissioned by the group, showed 89% of voters in Gort’s district, where the golf course is located, would vote yes on the deal.
Beckham’s group has argued it would open the huge green space area to the entire public, rather than just golfers, most of whom pay expensive greens fees.
The backers of the plan also argue the stadium, hotel and commercial development would take up only a small fraction of the green space the golf course provides, and parking would be underground.