To build a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown Miami, David Beckham and his investors would do away with a swath of a long-planned waterfront park. In return, they would fill a water basin, turning that land and a neighboring parcel into new green space along Biscayne Bay.
The result, they said Thursday, would be an additional destination to draw people to Museum Park, which — though it has yet to fully open — Beckham’s group argues would be underused given current city budget constraints.
Erecting a nearly 100-feet-tall, 20,000-seat stadium would dramatically alter existing plans for the park, which would be reconfigured to accommodate the structure next to AmericanAirlines Arena, hiding most of the green space behind the soccer stadium. But that would be for the better, said John Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate advisor.
“You need to give the community reasons to come,” he said.
A portrait of what the stadium and park would look like began to emerge Thursday as Beckham’s group published preliminary sketches of the latest plans, which have come together in a rush after the investors’ preferred site at PortMiami was scratched earlier this week.
So hurried were the drawings — especially compared to the detailed renderings offered for the port location — that they didn’t include a crucial perspective: what a nearly 100-foot-high stadium on Biscayne Boulevard would look like from the street, where it would block most water and park views. Plans for that side of the building are pending, Alschuler said.
Instead, the images showed park views with a stadium wall — nearly invisible, if the drawings are to be believed — through an open concourse landscaped with trees and a ground level housing restaurants and cafes. On one side of the building, people could gather to view soccer matches, concerts or movies on an outdoor wall screen, similar to one envisioned in the earlier port stadium. The building is still being designed by renowned Miami firm Arquitectonica.
“We want an iconic urban destination,” Alschuler said. “Soccer is an urban sport. It’s not a sport to be played in a parking lot off an interstate.”
In fact, the latest designs don’t include any parking. Beckham’s group says there are enough spaces in lots and garages around downtown if no soccer matches coincide with Miami Heat basketball games. Heat executives have said they are concerned about some of those parking spots disappearing as new developments break ground.
Miami Beckham United released the early designs in an effort to counter homemade renderings put out earlier this week by soccer fans looking to drum up support — and, more troubling for Beckham’s group, by opponents trying to show that a stadium would be out of place.
The structure would do away with 4.2 acres of the city-owned, 19-acre Museum Park, and add 8.5 acres to the east, for a net gain of 4.3 acres. Beckham’s group would pay to fill the city’s deep-water basin, known as the Florida East Coast Railway slip — at a cost of more than $20 million, according to a Miami-Dade County estimate — to complete the stadium footprint. The remaining filled land not used by the stadium along the bay would be landscaped into a park and connected to the county-owned property known as Parcel B behind the arena. That parcel, now used as a bayside staging area for arena events, also would become parkland.
Though Beckham representatives haven’t completed a new cost estimate, Alschuler said Thursday he expects the price tag to approximate the one at the port — about $250 million. The investors would mostly privately fund construction; they are also seeking a state subsidy.
Miami has invested more than $15 million to improve the slip and its seawall in recent years. Alschuler indicated Beckham’s group won’t refund the city for those expenses, arguing that the investors’ additional spending will only upgrade what Miami has already paid for — even though the slip would disappear. (“If I own a Chevy and somebody says, ‘I’m going to replace it with a Cadillac,’ I should consider that a pretty fair transaction,” Alschuler said.)
For a stadium to be built, the city and county would have to agree to a land swap that would exempt the structure from property taxes. The county would charge Beckham some sort of rent, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, clarifying in a sports-talk radio interview Thursday that he would then urge Miami-Dade commissioners to turn over that payment to the city for parks maintenance and operations.
Miami voters would have to sign off, likely in November, on a potential deal.
While Beckham’s group referred to “reclaiming” the boat slip, environmental advocates and former city leaders, including former Mayor Manny Diaz, have said the water basin is an integral component of the multimillion dollar Museum Park, home to the recently opened Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, which is under construction.
One neighbor, David Pina of the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance, attended Thursday’s news conference at the InterContinental Hotel down the street from the slip. He said he worries a stadium would be too much to handle given existing strains on pipes and roads.
“It has all the good intentions, but it really takes away from what we need as a city, which is green space,” said Pina, who lives across the street from Museum Park.
Before Thursday’s news conference, Beckham representatives showed their designs to four of five Miami city commissioners, who sounded open to the project, if still hesitant given the lack of specifics. The fifth commissioner, Keon Hardemon, said he has “no idea” what Beckham’s group is proposing.
“The drawings are not sufficient,” Chairman Wifredo “Willy” Gort said. “I’d like to see the numbers and the benefits to the residents of the city of Miami.”
“It kind of trades what I consider better land for worse land,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “It’s something that I think we would be foolish not to allow the voters to express their opinion on.”
One of Beckham’s chief investors, Miami-based telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure, spoke at Thursday’s news conference about his expectation that professional soccer — and the team’s planned youth academy — would have in a city that has among the highest television ratings for the sport.
“Most importantly,” he said, “we need to win the support of city residents in a referendum vote.”