It took a year for soccer celebrity David Beckham to give up on his dream to build a waterfront soccer stadium in Miami.
He has now agreed to a landlocked site next to Marlins Park in Little Havana, a site that had been initially dangled in from of Team Beckham, but which they had soundly rejected, calling it “spiritually tainted.”
All that’s now forgotten. With the new stadium site, Mr. Beckham must acquire private and city property. Assistance is needed for the residents who will be displaced within what’s being called the “former Orange Bowl site,” not Marlins Park site. Perhaps a faint trace of taint still remains.
We’re glad Mr. Beckham didn’t give up on Miami altogether. There’s a strong fan base in South Florida for Major League Soccer.
Although Mr. Beckham and his partners were not as warmly received as they’d hoped, this stadium deal should help erase whatever hurt feeling might linger. That means taxpayers who have been bamboozled in the past won’t be saddled with a deal that showers a sports team with public funds.
Will we ever be able to forget that in 2009, Miami-Dade and Miami contributed about $490 million in borrowed construction dollars to Marlins Park from public coffers? For now, the negotiations with the Beckham group have mostly involved securing free or low-cost public land. Miami Beckham United will be built with $200 million of Mr. Beckham’s and his partner’s money. As it should be.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado wanted to make that perfectly clear last week when the new site deal was announced: “This is not a Marlins stadium deal,” the mayor said. Let’s keep it that way.
Settling on a site had to happen because Mr. Beckham apparently needed to either keep or pass the ball. There are other cities wanting to purchase this coveted MLS franchise.
Still, the acceptance of the site in the middle of a neighborhood is quite a turn-around. When Mr. Beckham and his team met with the Miami Herald Editorial Board more than a year ago, they were determined to get a waterfront site. Period.
This despite the fact they were running into roadblocks. The initial push was for a site in PortMiami, a sliver of land next to the headquarters of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Mr. Beckham’s team underestimated the backlash from company executives, who believed the company had much to lose in the land deal.
Then, the Museum Park site along Biscayne Boulevard came into play with Parcel B, the strip of land behind AmericanAirlines Arena. That was quickly rejected due to public outcry led by downtown dwellers who were promised green space at the site. Then a tax-friendly deal with the University of Miami was briefly on the table, and then off.
Along the way, Mr. Beckham felt some unexpected public backlash, perhaps unaware that local residents had become skeptical of any deal that would involve asking for coveted waterfront property.
In retrospect, Mr. Beckham picked a bad time to bring up the topic of a stadium in Miami-Dade, in light of recent efforts by Marlins and Miami Dolphins team owners to get taxpayers to help finance their venues. We doubt there’ll ever be a good time for that, going forward. But Mr. Beckham’s Miami ordeal was a learning experience all around.
We’ve learned to see past the glitter when it comes to stadium projects. What’s clear today is this: Taxpayers won’t be fooled again.
Still and all, welcome to Miami, Mr. Beckham.