Miami Beckham United has shifted its quest to build a stadium in downtown Miami from PortMiami to a vacant boat slip next to AmericanAirlines Arena.
The David Beckham-led investor group declared its intent to focus on the recently proposed site after Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami mayor Tomás Regalado both recommended the location as their preferred destination for the new venue, according to a statement issued by Miami Beckham United on Monday afternoon.
“Miami Beckham United appreciates the vision and leadership that Mayors Gimenez and Regalado have demonstrated in identifying the best possible site for an MLS soccer venue," the group said in a statement obtained by Inside MLS. "Both Mayors are in agreement that downtown Miami and soccer are a perfect match. Expanding Museum Park with the addition of the FEC slip and Parcel B will complete the vision of a continuous downtown waterfront anchored by world-class museums and a world-class soccer park. We look forward to working with the Mayors to make our case to their respective Commissions and the community over the coming months. Our collective goal is clear: Miami Beckham United will deliver a park and soccer venue that will make Miami proud.”
The decision reflects the political realities of the increasingly complex fight. Beckham and his fellow investors originally preferred the sweeping vistas offered by placing the stadium on Dodge Island, but the dogged and vocal resistance from a group of interested parties spearheaded by Royal Caribbean Cruises presented a hurdle perhaps too formidable to overcome.
Gimenez raised the possibility of locating the stadium on the boat slip earlier this month and asked Miami Beckham United to investigate the viability of building its 25,000-seat stadium at the location. Miami Beckham United expressed its willingness to weigh the option – including the city-owned slip and a related county-owned parcel necessary for construction – as a potential alternative to PortMiami and other less desirable contingency plans near Florida International University, Marlins Stadium in Little Havana or Miami International Airport.
The resulting inquiry encouraged Miami Beckham United to the point where it has decided to pursue a stadium there in earnest, but the project still faces several hurdles before a deal is secured. The investor group must figure out how to fill in the slip in a cost-effective fashion (Gimenez estimated it would take $10-16 million during his term as city manager some 15 years ago, according to the Miami Herald) and navigate through the land conveyance and lease concerns. It must also reach an accord with all involved parties about potential tax burdens and other financial obligations related to the site. And it must summon enough political support from county commissioners and other interested politicos to push the project through despite potential concerns about using this property – including rare frontage on Biscayne Bay, though that portion is earmarked for a pedestrian causeway – for another stadium.
Most importantly, the Beckham-led group must steer its project through a referendum in order to gain final approval. Gimenez and Regalado told the Miami Herald last week they planned to present the issues to voters. The introduction of a public vote injects considerable uncertainty into the process given the widespread antipathy to stadium projects in south Florida after the Marlins Stadium debacle. Miami Beckham United said the voters will have an opportunity to approve the privately-funded project later this year, but the exact date – perhaps Election Day itself in November – remains undetermined at this point.
Although many of the finer details remain in flux, Miami Beckham United now has a new and perhaps more feasible destination in sight. It is now down to Beckham and his partners to secure a deal and sell it to the voters to ensure this latest twist finally points the way toward the desired result.