Building a soccer stadium without parking garages is a “good risk to take” if Miami believes in a future where transit can chip away at the car culture, a representative for David Beckham said Tuesday night in a pitch for a 25,000-seat facility on the western edge of Overtown.
After failing in a bid to bring professional soccer next to Marlins Park and its multiple garages, Beckham’s team now is pursuing a privately financed stadium that would rely on street parking and fans taking transit to the games. Parking was the top concern when Beckham representative Spencer Crowley addressed Miami Young Republicans on Tuesday night in South Miami.
“It’s natural, those of us who live and grew up in South Florida, to have some degree of skepticism on the parking issue. … I know Floridians like to drive,” said Crowley, an Akerman lawyer and lobbyist representing Beckham’s group. “In order to really change, I think we have to give it a chance. This is a really exciting opportunity. It’s a really exciting experiment for this county and for this city.
“Our clients are convinced it will work,” he said. “They’re convinced they’re going to create a product that will excite people and bring them to the stadium, no matter what they have to do.”
The proposed stadium site sits about three blocks from the Culmer Metrorail station. Beckham’s camp says there will be about 7,000 parking spaces within a half mile of the location, which spans two blocks where Northwest Sixth Avenue crosses Eighth and Sixth streets north of the Miami River. His advocates also point to soccer’s “march to the match” tradition of fans walking to games.
But skeptics, including Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, have questioned the wisdom of counting on Miami fans embracing mass transit or long walks in tropical heat to watch professional soccer. Parking was also the most popular topic during Crowley’s question-and-answer session at the Town Kitchen bar before the Young Republicans.
“I’m going to get all of the parking questions out of the way,” the group’s president, Jessica Fernandez, said as she began reading audience members’ hand-written questions. Later in the program, she had even more. “I promise you parking is an issue,” Fernandez told Crowley. “I have more questions on parking.”
Several Young Republican attendees came up to Crowley after the event to praise his stance on parking. “I think it’s a good idea,” said Carmen Sotomayor, a Miami nutrition adviser. “We’ll all start walking more.”
Crowley said the location will let soccer fans enjoy a waterfront walk along the Miami River to soccer games, and that they’re hoping water taxis will operate from downtown to the city’s nearby Lummus Park. With a pro soccer team to harness fútbol passion in Miami’s immigrant population, Crowley argued the new stadium can prove the city’s potential for a more modern approach to transportation.
“I think it’s a good risk to take. I think it’s a good bet to make,” Crowley told the audience. “That we can develop something that’s so good, so exciting, that we can change the paradigm. Less cars on the road is a good thing. Let’s try to support it.”