Referendum discussions complicate stadium pursuit for David Beckham in Miami
The political pressures building in Miami have prompted local officials to raise the possibility of sending any MLS stadium plan to local voters for approval.
Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami mayor Tomás Regalado told the Miami Herald on Wednesday they will likely seek a public referendum for any stadium proposals located on county-owned land at PortMiami or on a city-owned boat slip located next to AmericanAirlines Arena.
Although the slip always looked likely to prompt a referendum given city regulations and statutes, the Dodge Island location does not necessarily require similar approval from county voters. Gimenez said he would consider placing the issue in front of voters nevertheless.
“I know that there are a lot of commissioners that would like that,” Gimenez told the Miami Herald. “I think that, at the end, the people’s voice should be heard.”
Any vote would complicate the time line for the project and place yet another hurdle in front of a group already mired in a political thicket, but Miami Beckham United strategic adviser John Alschuler said in a statement that any decision to build a stadium in downtown Miami should rest with the voters.
It is a potential wrinkle anticipated and subsequently embraced by the expansion group. David Beckham and Simon Fuller met with local constituents, politicians and powerbrokers during a visit to Miami last week to make their case and round up support for the project. Beckham has encountered resistance for his plan to build a privately financed stadium on his preferred PortMiami site, but he reaffirmed his commitment to laying the necessary groundwork to ensure the efforts would ultimately yielded the desired success in the end.
“I have always said that I want my club to be the 'people's club,'” Beckham said in a statement obtained by Inside MLS on Wednesday. “All over the world it can be seen how great sports teams and iconic stadiums can enhance a city. Together with the people of Miami, I want to build something that will unite and entertain this amazing city for generations to come.
“Our principles remain the same today as they did at the beginning: we will privately finance the stadium and pay fair market value for the land,” Beckham continued. “The passion for soccer is growing fast and we want to make everyone in Miami proud of what we can achieve.”
The pressing question for Beckham and MLS at this stage: how long will it take to shepherd the project through the complicated terrain?
Introducing a public referendum into the process promises to extend the protracted time line significantly with no guarantees of eventual success. Beckham and his partners will need to present a persuasive case to voters in order to overcome the ill feelings created by the Marlins Park fiasco and persuade them this project will serve their needs without extracting a significant public toll. The particulars in this deal – including the critical private financing vow for the anticipated 25,000-seat ground – make the task a bit easier, but they do not guarantee a satisfactory resolution in short order.
It is now incumbent on MLS, Beckham and his partners to display the necessary patience to press onward and somehow meander through the increasingly complicated landscape. The stated willingness to build a public coalition and seek voter approval represents the latest in a long line of necessary and sensible steps taken by the group during this process. Similarly adroit measures must follow in the weeks and months ahead to ensure the evident desire and diligence ultimately garners the necessary approvals and paves the way for an ultimately successful resolution as quickly as possible.