A downtown Miami soccer stadium could begin to take shape soon, once negotiations begin in earnest Tuesday between Miami-Dade County and retired soccer star David Beckham’s investors, who are trying to create a new Major League Soccer team.
Miami Beckham United and Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office have scheduled a private meeting to run down the investors’ list of up to 30 possible stadium sites, according to the county. Among them is the group’s favored location: county-owned land at PortMiami.
Beckham and league officials may announce their progress on a new expansion franchise as early as next week, according to sources familiar with the talks.
“We anticipate that there’ll be a further commitment to Miami,” Deputy Mayor Chip Iglesias said Monday during a public meeting with two county commissioners.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said two weeks ago that he expected an announcement on the status of the discussions with Beckham “in early February.” Beckham, who retired from the LA Galaxy, has an option in his contract to buy a franchise for a discounted $25 million, compared to the market rate of about $100 million.
The league’s expansion model has been to go into cities that build soccer-specific stadiums in their urban core. Gimenez and commissioners have repeatedly said the county would not fund a stadium, and that any use of public land would require a fair rent payment. Beckham’s investors have hired a Tallahassee lobbyist to go after potential state funds.
Led by New York real-estate developer John Alschuler, the investors have been laying groundwork for the negotiations with Miami-Dade since well before county commissioners gave the go-ahead last month for the mayor to proceed with them.
Since then, Alschuler has met with one commissioner, Xavier Suarez, to go over his concerns and ideas. Alschuler or other group representatives also plan to meet with commissioners, a spokesman said.
“It’s part of an ongoing dialogue as it relates to the potential stadium and what’s best for soccer in Miami,” said Shawn Warmstein, with rbb, the local public relations firm hired by the investors.
Suarez called Tuesday’s public meeting to update his colleague Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes downtown Miami. Neither commissioner is sold on a site yet, both said.
In December, Suarez asked the investors to consider a site just east of the Miami Intermodal Center, Miami International Airport’s rental-car and mass-transit hub.
On Monday, Suarez told Barreiro — and about 25 people packed into a conference room at Barreiro’s district office — that he had toured the site with Alschuler. The developer also ran computer simulations of what a stadium might look like at that location, Suarez said.
They concluded that building on the 8½-acre site would require closing off a chunk of Douglas Road and spending an additional $80 million or so on a parking structure of some sort.
As a result, Suarez sounded more open to the PortMiami site, which he pointed to numerous times on a 3D scale model of downtown Miami that he used as a prop. (He had it made before the stadium ever came up to illustrate his vision for lowering Biscayne Boulevard underground and creating a pedestrian esplanade where the thoroughfare is now.)
Suarez said he has met with Armando Christian Perez — the Miami rapper better known as Pitbull — who might be interested in performing at a soccer stadium.
Suarez said he is still worried that a seaport stadium could attract terrorists. “I’m not sold on any” of the sites, he said.
He endorsed erecting pedestrian overpasses above Biscayne Boulevard to make it easier for people to walk across, and maybe even connect it to the Metromover. The problem some urban planners have with overpasses is that they don’t bring foot traffic to streetside businesses.
Barreiro remained noncommittal about the seaport site. A master plan long identified the southwest corner of PortMiami as a place for residential or commercial development because the water off it is too shallow for cargo or cruise ships to dock.
“I don’t want to cut away the potential of the seaport in the long haul,” Barreiro said. “For me, [the site] has a substantial amount of hurdles.”