Miami-Dade County

April 18, 2014

Soccer stadium at PortMiami location would cost $50 million more, David Beckham group says

Despite the heftier price tag, representatives for retired English soccer star David Beckham say they still want to build a home for their new professional franchise on the waterfront.

A Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami would cost David Beckham and his investors $50 million more to build than at other locations — bringing the total project cost to about $250 million — but they still want to pursue the publicly owned waterfront site, the group said Friday.

Beckham’s group has spent the past month reviewing construction costs for a 25,000-seat, open-air port stadium, whose designs it unveiled in March.

Architects and builders finished their analysis, and on Thursday, Beckham’s real-estate advisor told Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez that the investors believe they can afford the privately financed construction. A lobbyist for the franchise is seeking a state subsidy that acts like a sales-tax rebate that could amount to $40 million over 20 years.

Of the entire stadium price tag at the port, $50 million would have to be spent on elevating the stadium from ground level — the port’s Dodge Island is considered a flood zone — as well as on creating a public plaza adjacent to the stadium, and on relocating parking and a daycare center for the neighboring Royal Caribbean Cruises headquarters, Beckham advisor John Alschuler said Friday.

A stadium at one of the three other sites on the group’s list, including next to the Miami Marlins’ ballpark, would not incur similar expenses.

But Alschuler said a stadium on the bay with views of the downtown skyline would sell professional soccer better in terms of sponsorships, advertising and luxury suites sold, and thus would contribute more to the franchise’s financial bottom line.

“Miami’s greatness is about the interaction of a vibrant culture and the water,” he said. “We will earn that $50 million back in increased revenue from the stadium.”

That increased revenue estimate doesn’t take into account the possibility that the group, in addition to building on the 12-acre stadium site, could also develop the remainder of the 36 acres on the port’s southwest corner, according to Alschuler. Beckham’s organization could vie to become the master developer of an additional 1-million-square-foot commercial complex that, according to placeholder renderings, could accommodate two hotels and two office buildings.

With its debt load approaching $1 billion, the port had planned to bring in millions of dollars in new real-estate income from a trade and tourism center with up to 7 million square feet of construction. Miami’s commercial real-estate industry has opposed that proposal as unfair competition for downtown.

Confirmation of Beckham’s interest in the port site means negotiations will now likely accelerate with Gimenez’s administration, which has not yet committed to the location and has taken some heat from county commissioners who say they are less than thrilled with the idea. The mayor has said Beckham’s investors would have to pay “fair” rent to the county for the valuable property, which is too shallow to accommodate cargo or cruise ships.

“We’re not there yet,” Gimenez told the Miami Herald. “But one way or another, we need to move on with this.”

While Gimenez has not declared himself a proponent of the port stadium location, he made some of his strongest remarks yet against opponents on sports talk radio on Friday morning. Royal Caribbean and its industry supporters have formally organized a Miami Seaport Alliance in opposition, running a full-page ad in the Herald earlier this week welcoming MLS but calling a port stadium short-sighted for future growth.

On the Joe Rose Show on WQAM-AM 560, Gimenez dismissed the alliance as hardly representative of most cruise and cargo companies.

“One advertisement in the Herald doesn’t make a coalition,” he said. “Most of the people that I’ve talked to have been either neutral or in favor of it.”

He called the principal argument that detractors have leveled against a port stadium — concerns about increased traffic — a “red herring,” espousing Beckham’s position that soccer games, mostly held on Saturday evenings, won’t conflict with port passengers or cargo loads.

“They want to derail it before it even gets a chance,” he said. “I want to see what it would look like.”

The city of Miami Beach, which recently passed a resolution against the port site citing potential traffic backups from the new Port Tunnel on to the MacArthur Causeway, plans to hold a discussion Wednesday on the potential congestion.

“It’s really easy to call the traffic concerns a red herring when you don’t live on Miami Beach,” said Mayor Philip Levine, a Gimenez ally who said he wants MLS here, just not on the port. “If you drive across the MacArthur these days, you may not consider it a red herring anymore.”

Levine owns a cruise ship media company, Royal Media Partners, that works exclusively with Royal Caribbean, the stadium site’s chief opponent. But his business is unaffected by whether the company’s ships remain at PortMiami, Levine said.

“For us, it’s just a matter of the quality of life of the residents,” he said.

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