David Beckham’s MLS stadium is a no-go at downtown Miami’s Museum Park, boat slip
06/10/2014 4:31 PM
06/10/2014 8:40 PM
Less than a month after Miami-Dade County spurned a Major League Soccer stadium, the city of Miami did the same, telling David Beckham’s investment group Tuesday that he cannot build on downtown’s Museum Park and deep-water boat slip.
Mayor Tomás Regalado and City Manager Daniel Alfonso told Beckham’s group thanks but no thanks when lead negotiator John Alschuler offered Miami $2 million a year in rent of sorts to make a deal.
That was “generous,” according to Alfonso, but neither he nor the mayor walked into the meeting with Alschuler intending to bargain. “Given the uniqueness of this site, we agreed that this was just not the right place,” Alfonso said.
“The slip is off the table,” Regalado said.
Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate adviser, said the group plans to take some time to consider its remaining options in light of the sudden setback.
“Our team’s going to pause,” he said. “They’re going to consider all alternatives and look forward to constructive engagement.”
City and county leaders reiterated that they want Beckham’s expansion franchise in Miami. But Tuesday’s decision marked the second blow for the retired English footballer and his investors, who had initially targeted the county-owned southwest corner of PortMiami as a stadium site — only to face political resistance from neighboring Royal Caribbean Cruises and the county commission.
Talks with the University of Miami to share a downtown stadium with its college football team — a partnership that might have given Beckham’s group significantly more political clout — recently broke down.
Still, Beckham wrapped up his latest campaign trip to South Florida just two days ago. He met with youth soccer players in Little Haiti, schmoozed developers in Brickell and attended an England-Honduras World Cup warm-up match.
Tuesday morning, Alschuler told the city the investors would be willing to make a $2 million annual payment to local government in exchange for filling the city-owned Florida East Coast Railway slip and taking over a portion of the waterfront Museum Park to build a $250 million, 20,000-seat stadium funded mostly with private dollars. An earlier rent number Beckham’s group had floated was much lower, at around $500,000, prompting a break in talks with the city.
The $2 million figure would have been double what the Miami Heat recently agreed to begin paying the county each year to use the neighboring AmericanAirlines Arena. But in the end, there was no negotiation.
Alschuler said Beckham’s group believed city voters would have favored a waterfront stadium. A Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald poll taken last week showed county voters evenly split over the location.
“We respect the mayor’s decision, but we believe it would have been a great site — there was incredible passion in the community for it,” Alschuler said. “I think it’s a disappointment and a lost opportunity for the city.”
Regalado, who was elected after opposing public financing for the Miami Marlins’ ballpark in Little Havana, said numerous downtown residents — who are not known for being politically engaged — were loud in their opposition to the location.
“They have called, they have come, they have been very active,” he said. “We listened.”
The mayor at first embraced the idea to fill the nine-acre boat slip, which was proposed by County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. A stadium would have encroached on 4.2 acres of Museum Park’s 19 acres. Beckham’s group would have landscaped the newly filled waterfront and connected it to the county-owned property behind AmericanAirlines Arena, known as Parcel B. That would have fulfilled a longtime promise to turn Parcel B into a public park, the investors said, and created new park land behind the stadium along Biscayne Bay.
After hearing last week that Beckham team had indicated it might pay Miami $500,000 a year as part of a deal, Gimenez said the number was “way too low.”
He said in a statement Tuesday that he remains a supporter of bringing MLS to Miami as long as a franchise doesn’t seek county tax money for stadium construction.
“If asked by Major League Soccer and Miami Beckham United, my Administration will work to identify other possible sites in Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said.
The Museum Park site had quickly drawn detractors. Condo residents worried about traffic congestion and losing their green space and bay views. High-profile architects and planners protested that Museum Park was intended to be an urban oasis — not a patch of dirt or water hole meant to be filled and developed.
Among the fiercest opponents was former city Mayor Manny Diaz, who during his administration had rejected putting a baseball stadium on the site. He praised Tuesday’s decision, calling it “the right choice.”
“I am hopeful that Mr. Beckham will consider other sites in our City and I am willing to help in any way I can,” he said in a statement.
Museum Park is scheduled to open Saturday. The Eagle, a U.S. Coast Guard training tall ship, will be docked at the water basin.
Regalado said he hopes Beckham’s group finds another home for its stadium in Miami. “Everybody here loves soccer,” he said.
Though it would have been up to the city commission to sign off on a deal and put it before voters, several commissioners said Regalado’s administration did not involve them in Tuesday’s decision.
“I have to admit that I’m surprised that I wasn’t consulted on any aspects of the deal, because I think there were other considerations that weren’t ever really fleshed out,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “Obviously, this was something that was kind of thrown on our lap, and I think the time line for any sort of real constructive dialogue was very short.”
The commission, which meets Thursday, could in theory overrule Regalado and direct the city manager to re-engage with Beckham’s group over the site, but that appears unlikely. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents the downtown district, said he told Beckham in person Saturday that he could not support the location.
“I told him I support soccer in Miami. I supported soccer at the port — I still do,” Sarnoff said. “I’m pleased that the FEC [slip] is off the table. Now, what we need to do as a government is ensure that we look for alternate sites for Beckham to have a soccer stadium in Miami.”
The site he and Regalado said they suggested: next to Marlins Park. But Beckham’s longtime business partner, Simon Fuller, has called that property “spiritually tainted” by the unpopular ballpark financing deal.
Commissioner Frank Carollo, whose district includes Little Havana, has been supportive of pro soccer but critical of the city’s handling of the Beckham discussion, saying he and his colleagues need to be more involved.
“I believe that as a world-class city, Miami should have Major League Soccer,” he said. “However, I want a clear and transparent process regarding location and the finances, which I don’t believe has occurred.”
Alschuler, Beckham’s adviser, wouldn’t comment on that or any other potential site.
“We’re going to look at a wide range of alternatives,” he said. “We’ll now find another way to contribute to the future of Miami.”