The buzz over Major League Soccer in Miami infected some University of Miami architecture students, who presented elaborate proposals for a soccer-specific waterfront stadium in downtown Miami for a final project in their senior design class on Monday.
The assignment from professors Jorge Trelles and Ricardo Lopez called for an 18,000-25,000 seat stadium between AmericanAirlines Arena and the new Museum Park, utilizing the existing land and FEC slip, which would be partially filled. The idea for the project came from Alessandro Butini, a London-based businessman and frequent Miami visitor who is interested in bringing MLS to Miami.
Soccer icon David Beckham and his investment group have been getting most of the attention from MLS executives regarding a Miami team, but Butini is putting together an alternate plan.
“There is no MLS team without a stadium, and as a consequence, our focus is finding viable solutions for the development of a stadium in downtown Miami,” said Butini, who attended Monday’s presentation.
The students’ projects ranged from “Marrecife de Miami,” a coral-looking stadium with viewing holes looking out to the bay to a stadium whose walls look like fish scales to “Biscayne Bowl,” the brainchild of student Paul Genovesi, who incorporated open-air elements of the Orange Bowl and the Perez Art Museum, breezeways of Italian stadium San Nicola di Bari, the hill at Clemson Memorial Stadium, and “The Grove” tailgating area at University of Mississippi. He included football configurations, in case UM wants to make it a joint venture, and an international soccer bar where fans could watch matches from around the world.
The presentation was attended by Jose Sotolongo, director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, and county commissioners Juan Zapata and Jean Monestime — both huge soccer fans.
“Soccer in Miami is a really important issue, and everybody’s talking about it, so I figured I’d come take a look,” said Sotolongo. “These students had some really good ideas. Miami’s a good-looking city. Soccer is sexy. It’s a great combination. I could see tourists from all over the world coming here, staying on South Beach, taking water taxis to our soccer stadium. It’s exciting to think about.”
Beckham’s group visited 30 potential sites and is in serious discussions with county officials about a stadium plan, including one proposal at the southwest corner of PortMiami. Butini has had exploratory talks with local politicians.
“Beckham is a good-looking guy with a lot of fame, but Butini loves this city, too, and is saying, ‘Hey, I’m not Beckham, but I want to put something together,’” Sotolongo said. “We need to listen to all the options.”