Broward beckoning to David Beckham: Bring soccer stadium here

07/21/2014 7:37 PM

07/21/2014 7:46 PM

Soccer star David Beckham’s failed attempts to find a home for a 20,000-seat stadium in downtown Miami has him looking north, Broward County officials say.

Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief says she’s asked all 31 cities to come forward with a list of possible spots for the Major League Soccer stadium.

A few, including Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, are scrambling to oblige. In addition, the county is offering up a spot it owns in Sunrise.

“He has $400 million to invest in a soccer stadium,” Sharief said. “He doesn’t want any tax dollars. He has his own money. He was disappointed with his treatment in Miami.”

But according to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Beckham United is still looking for sites in Miami.

“Nothing has changed,” said Michael Hernandez, spokesman for Gimenez. “He spoke to them again last week and they told him they were searching for sites in Miami-Dade County. We are going to continue working with them. We want soccer in Miami-Dade County.”

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter says she reached out to Beckham’s lobbyist in early July and suggested they consider county-owned land next to the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

“I gave him a call and said, ‘I see things aren’t going so well in Miami. Have you considered Broward?’ He called me back two days later and said they are open to all alternatives.”

John Alschuler, Beckham’s real estate adviser, declined to discuss whether Broward was on the table.

“We don’t discuss specifics of proposals,” Alschuler said Monday. “We’re still working hard to give the South Florida public what they want and deserve and we’re in the process of evaluating potential stadium sites in Miami-Dade County. However, we have always said that there are other communities that would welcome an MLS club owned by David and his partners.”

Sharief said she wants to give them every opportunity to come to Broward.

“There’s a lot of excitement about soccer in Broward,” she said. “I figured we should give it a shot.”

Sharief’s request had Hollywood commissioners buzzing last week.

Commissioner Peter Hernandez suggested using part of the city-owned Orangebrook golf course. Commissioner Patty Asseff suggested another parcel near Pembroke and Park roads.

But Commissioner Dick Blattner said he’d heard the site in Sunrise had top dibs.

Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober wasn’t too keen on the idea either.

“Having gone several times to the new Marlins stadium, I cannot say it has stimulated economic growth in the area around the stadium,” Bober said. “I don’t know what’s in it for us. But a lot would be asked of us. I’m OK with letting David Beckham build somewhere else.”

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper says she contacted Beckham’s lobbying team in early June to invite them to take a look at a privately owned parcel in her city.

Cooper declined to name the location.

“If South Florida loses a team like this, it would be a sin,” she said Monday. “They said they are reviewing multiple sites that are still on their radar. They’re still scouting.”

So far, Miami and Miami-Dade have rejected two waterfront sites that were on Beckham United’s wish list.

Since the two sites in Miami were taken off the table, Miami and county officials have proposed another parcel in Little Havana west of Marlins Park, but the site has not been embraced by Beckham’s group.

Broward County is already home to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who play in the North American Soccer League, a notch below Major League Soccer.

Tim Robbie, managing director for the Strikers, said his franchise would love to partner with Beckham’s group to create a Broward-based MLS team.

But whether MLS would agree to hosting another team in Broward is another matter altogether, especially since the Miami Fusion folded more than a decade ago because of mounting debt and lagging attendance.

Major League Soccer has made it clear it prefers basing a team in downtown Miami.

League officials have not discussed Broward as an alternative site, yet aren’t ruling it out.

MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said the failure of the Fusion does not weigh into the decisions being made today.

“This is a different South Florida, this is a different era,” he said. “Our focus remains on a stadium in downtown Miami, but clearly there is shortage of interest among all of the various constituents in South Florida for Major League Soccer coming to the market.”

Despite Beckham’s setbacks in Miami, MLS officials still see South Florida as a vibrant market ready to embrace another team.

“We continue to be pleased by the amount of support by soccer fans throughout South Florida, and the overwhelming numbers that we saw during the World Cup with viewership on television and viewing parties,” Courtemanche said. “And the World Cup euphoria is certainly a positive sign for the future of professional soccer in the market.”

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