One of the worlds most famous soccer stars continued to build his case Monday for reshaping the worlds busiest cruise-ship port.
David Beckham swept back into the public eye to rally support for a stadium and development plan that would place both his soccer team and persona at the heart of PortMiami. He plans a trip to Tallahassee on Tuesday in a hunt for state subsidies, and on Monday told reporters he hopes to win over critics from the cruise-ship industry.
I want to change their minds, Beckham said at a well-attended afternoon press conference at Miami-Dade Colleges downtown campus. I dont want to be an enemy to the people that are opposed to the stadium. I want to work with them.
Beckhams first public appearance in Miami since announcing his bid for a stadium at the county-owned port came after his negotiating team outlined both the vision for the facility and their case against traffic concerns raised by Royal Caribbean. The worlds second-largest cruise operator has a corporate campus that overlaps with Beckhams proposed 25,000-seat stadium site, and top executives are warning elected officials that Beckhams plan would hurt port operations.
At a morning press briefing, Beckham aide John Alschuler, a top real estate consultant in New York, revealed selected details from a traffic study he said is the most comprehensive ever performed at the port. He declined to release it, saying the final version would be made public in about a month.
The presentation showed a stadium heavily reliant on parking in downtown Miami, with thousands of fans walking a pedestrian bridge to the island port. He also insisted the soccer and cruising schedules were so distinct with cruise ships boarding in the afternoon and spectators arriving in the evening that the two uses have little chance of conflict.
Alschuler also said he expected about a third of the stadiums spectators to bypass downtown and arrive through the new port tunnel scheduled to open in May. The nearly $700 million tunnel was designed to divert cargo trucks from downtown and make it easier for cruise passengers to get to the port.
Alschuler did acknowledge the parking plan as outlined wouldnt hold up if Beckhams team succeeds in recruiting the University of Miamis football team as a tenant. While the deal would deliver UMs political cachet to Beckhams stadium bid, the college team would also bring requirements for at least 40,000 seats making the soccer venue twice the size of the Heats 19,000-seat AmericanAirlines Arena. College football games also take place during Saturday mornings and afternoons boarding and departure times for cruise ships.
The UM question highlighted just one moving part in Beckhams soccer ambitions. While three other sites have been listed as fall-back options land near the Miami International Airport, Florida International Universitys western campus, and a site adjoining Marlins Park in Little Havana Alschuler only presented renderings for a port stadium, and he said that remains Beckhams top choice.
Funding is another question mark. Beckham pledged not to seek any local aid and to pay market rent for a 12-acre site that a port consultant said could lease for at least $3 million a year.
Beckham hired a lobbyist to pursue state aid for the stadium, citing existing subsidies for most Florida stadiums, including Sun Life and AmericanAirlines Arena, both of which receive $2 million a year from Tallahassee (Sun Life as compensation for a baseball retrofit in the 1990s).
We want to be treated like every other franchise, Beckham said Monday. Were not asking for anything more or anything less.
Should Beckham persuade Miami-Dade leaders to lease him part of the ports southwest corner, his development team could play a significant role in creating a new commercial district for downtown Miami.
In his presentation, Alschuler offered new details on a one-million square-foot commercial complex woven into their stadium site plan, a potentially lucrative new development opportunity that could have Beckhams organization as the master developer. While he emphasized the plan was mostly a placeholder, Alschuler said two of the four proposed buildings would be hotels and the other two would be office complexes.
There may be a role and I stress may be for the team as the developer and builder of the public spaces, Alschuler said, referring to the plazas and outdoor gathering spots that were part of the larger stadium design. We are open to any process that creates a kind of public realm and unity of the site. Our goal is to create a stadium that is inside a great urban destination.
He said the development parcels should be opened up for bids, with Miami-Dade County earning all of the proceeds. But he did not say whether the Beckham group itself would be interested in competing for the sites. As the group creating the stadium and wanting to manage the surrounding plaza and other public areas, Beckhams team could bring unique advantages to the bidding process.
The stadium renderings depict an open-air soccer stadium with the Miami skyline as a background and the kind of architectural flourishes sure to bring significant costs. With Beckham seeking a relatively modest operating subsidy from the state (the Heat receive more than $6 million a year from Miami-Dade, plus $2 million from Florida) and pledging to pay rent, the elaborate stadium design suggests he and his investors may need the kind of extra revenue that the surrounding land could bring.
It would be very interesting to see their operating model . Theyre making some concessions you dont see at this stage of the game, said Irwin Raij, a stadium-finance attorney at Foley & Lardner in Miami. Thats a beautiful building that has the potential to be an iconic building in the marketplace. Its going to have the price tag of an iconic building.
Beckhams backers describe the retired star as uniquely positioned to thrive as a Major League Soccer owner in Miami. Part of his 2007 contract to join the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team included favorable terms for purchasing a franchise once he left the playing field. Hes reportedly paying $25 million for a team license that cost the owners of Orlandos MLS franchise about $70 million.
With a global persona that has already cast him in ad campaigns for underwear, cellphones and cologne, Beckham sees his fame translating into a fan base well beyond South Florida. That could bring significant more television and merchandising revenue than a typical MLS owner could expect.
Beckhams stadium proposal offers an alternative to a more intensive building plan offered by top port executives, who were in Asia earlier this year pitching developers on a proposal to build as much as 7 million square feet of new commercial space in the southwest corner. The strategy to bring a convention center, hotel, and office towers to PortMiami drew strong objections from downtown Miami business leaders. Alschuler touched on those complaints Monday, noting they dont want to operate a stadium next to Blue Lagoon, referring to the suburban office district.
Marc Sarnoff, a Miami city commissioner and top critic of the ports development plan, said Monday he opposes the idea of building a Port City on the southwest corner but welcomed the Beckhams proposal for a more modest footprint.
A million beats the heck out of 7 million, Sarnoff said. It is an opportunity for everybody to cooperate on the future of the port.