Remember David Beckham? How the soccer celebrity swooped into town a year ago with the promise of building a new waterfront stadium for his Major League Soccer franchise? All that bowing and scraping by officials? The hoopla, the press conferences and cameo appearances? He even met with the Miami Herald Editorial Board.
Mr. Beckham had his heart set on waterfront property, at PortMiami or nearby. Then came backlash and rejection. Told to take this ball and go home — or maybe Broward — the bloodied Beckham camp retreated to consider other options.
This weekend, Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei wrote in a front-page article that little has been heard from the Beckham group in its quest to bring its team to Miami, where a growing Central and South American community would likely embrace it.
Now that we’ve all caught our breath, do we need to reexamine our treatment of Mr. Beckham and his proposal to build a stadium on his dime and not use any taxpayer money? Did we believe it was true? Therein lies the rub.
“I think we were hard on him,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata told the Miami Herald Editorial Board.
Now, Mr. Zapata wants to try a new tack. He wants Mr. Beckham to know that he’s still welcome. The commissioner thinks that it will be a mistake to allow someone of Mr. Beckham’s fame to slip away to another city.
“We say we want to become a world-class city, then we should start acting like one,” Mr. Zapata said. He says Mr. Beckham’s star power is that huge and can translate into revenue and cachet. “This would be a huge stimulus for us.”
Mr. Zapata has a point. Miami and Miami-Dade politicians should not, under any circumstance, hand the keys to waterfront property to Mr. Beckham, but did he deserve the bum’s rush?
Miami-Dade residents have had such bad luck with stadium deals they remain, understandably, traumatized. Mr. Zapata knows why: “I don’t know of any good deal for taxpayers between a sports franchise and the county.’’
As Mr. Beckham tried to win us over, the Editorial Board received scores of letters from readers with a common message: We won’t get fooled again by another sports team owner. Once the community told the soccer star to take a hike, politicos went to the sidelines.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said that Mr. Beckham’s people said they would get back to him. Mr. Zapata wants to extend an olive branch — and a new plan to Mr. Beckham. He wants to change the conversation from deciding now on a permanent home for the soccer stadium to consideration of a temporary one — at Florida International University’s South Campus. He said that the city of Houston did something similar. The university says it is aware of Mr. Zapata’s effort and that Beckham’s people have looked at their soccer stadium.
“The idea of a soccer stadium without a team is too abstract; it’s hard to envision what it would be like to have a team,” Mr. Zapata said.
A temporary home to help determine if a soccer stadium is viable feels like a reasonable compromise and a way to identify a committed fan base. If it’s a boon, Miami-Dade taxpayers might be more willing to welcome a stadium — maybe near the water — as long as all of Mr. Beckham’s cards are on the table and county officials truly look out for taxpayers’ interests. It could give the skeptical public something more tangible than promises.
How about a do-over?