Soccer

Downtown Development Authority backs PortMiami soccer stadium

 

pmazzei@MiamiHerald.com

Miami’s Downtown Development Authority formally threw its support Friday behind David Beckham’s proposal to build a Major League Soccer stadium on PortMiami’s Dodge Island.

For pedestrians to get to the site, the DDA voted unanimously that Beckham’s group should privately finance — in its entirety — the redevelopment of an unused drawbridge to turn it into a linear park. Then, the board suggested the walkway should be named “Beckham Boulevard.”

The park, which is outlined in Beckham’s proposal, would lead to a larger public plaza envisioned next to the stadium. Beckham’s representatives and the county have yet to discuss who would pay for those and other public improvements. Beckham’s group has pledged to privately finance construction of the stadium, though it is seeking a state subsidy that acts like a sales-tax rebate and could amount to $40 million over 20 years.

For Beckham and his investors, the largely symbolic DDA endorsement represented a bit of good news in a week when Miami-Dade County commissioners warned they might not be interested in a seaport stadium. Beckham’s team is in talks with Mayor Carlos Gimenez over the county-owned site.

The Miami Beach City Commission also voted against the port site this week, at the request of Mayor Philip Levine, who argues soccer fans and their automobiles would clog the MacArthur Causeway by entering and leaving the stadium through the soon-to-be-opened Port Tunnel.

In contrast, DDA board members had appeared ready to back Beckham’s idea in December, but they postponed a decision until the retired English player rolled out more detailed plans. Those plans, for a 25,000-seat waterfront stadium, were released late last month. Beckham’s real-estate advisor, John Alschuler, presented the project to the board Friday, as he has been doing with other civic groups.

(Attorney Neisen Kasdin, a Beckham lobbyist and the DDA’s vice-chairman, excused himself from the vote.)

As the chief promoter of downtown, the development authority has opposed the cash-strapped port’s plans to create a new office district on the same southwest corner Beckham has eyed for a stadium. The 36-acre area is too shallow to accommodate cruise or cargo ships, but the DDA doesn’t want a massive office and commercial development to compete with the mainland.

“ ‘Port City’ should not compete with the city of Miami,” said DDA chairman Marc Sarnoff, who is also a Miami city commissioner.

A soccer stadium would leave room for some buildings to go up on the port, but they would represent a far smaller development than the port had envisioned.

Friday morning, Gimenez told a Spanish-language ESPN sports radio station in Miami that everyone weighing in on Beckham’s proposal needs to take a breath because the county has not yet agreed to the port site. Three other sites — next to the Miami Marlins’ ballpark, by Miami International Airport and at Florida International University — are also in play, though the port is Beckham’s first choice.

“They’re anticipating something that hasn’t happened,” Gimenez said.

The mayor has not met with Beckham’s representatives in about a month, as the investors analyze potential construction costs and the financial viability of the stadium at the port and by Marlins Park in Little Havana.

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