David Beckham and his investment group have not yet pulled the plug on a proposed soccer stadium next to Marlins Park in Little Havana, but their inability to purchase several parcels of land from individual landowners has forced them to turn their attention to another site, according to Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, who added that the undisclosed site “will be better than the Marlins site.”
Beckham’s group will update the Major League Soccer Board of Governors on the stadium negotiations at a meeting Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, where the MLS Cup championship is being played that same day.
Beckham’s co-investor and chief negotiator Tim Leiweke has suggested Saturday’s meeting presents a hard-and-fast deadline; that the league could ditch Miami and go elsewhere if they don’t have a stadium deal finalized.
Garber, reached by the Miami Herald on Wednesday, would say only that “this needs to come to a conclusion. We’re spending an enormous amount of time and money on it, and we have been holding off on finalizing our expansion plans while this situation is unresolved, and that’s not fair to MLS, not fair to David and his partners, not fair to anybody at this point.”
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The site adjacent to Marlins Park, with a deal that involved the Miami-Dade School Board, seemed to be a viable option after so many hurdles over the past 22 months. But duplex, apartment and day-care owners who control a sliver of the land have not come to terms with the Beckham group.
“[Beckham and his investors] were very frustrated by their inability to get access to the land after making offers so dramatically higher than the appraised value,” Garber said. “They’ve had to look at another site. We have been informed by them about that site and we are very interested in what they have to say. We don’t know a lot about it at this point, but we do hope to get more information over the next couple of days.”
Neither Garber nor representatives of Beckham’s group would specify where the new site is, but real-estate site thenextmiami.com reported that the group was looking at a 4.2-acre Overtown lot at 650 NW Eighth St., near I-95 and the Culmer Metrorail station. It is owned by Windsor Capital Corporation.
A source familiar with the talks said that Beckham’s group was contacted by the development team behind the American Dream Miami mega mall about bringing MLS out to that planned entertainment and shopping complex in Northwest Miami-Dade. That scenario would clearly violate a dictate laid out by Garber that MLS only play in Miami’s urban core.
“We very much want to and must be close to the urban core,” Garber reiterated Wednesday. “There are so many incredibly exciting things going on in Miami. That’s part of what attracts us to the city, and we want to be part of that.”
Local representatives of American Dream Miami, a 200-acre shopping complex near Miami Lakes that’s envisioned as being big enough to have an indoor ski slope and submarine rides, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Another site that has been floated is the old Bertram yacht yard near Miami International Airport.
“I thought the Marlins site was workable, but it turned out not to be,” Garber said. “There are a lot of people on the political side and school board side that worked really hard with the Beckham group to make it work, but I understand and accept that those landowners were holding out for more. Time will tell whether that was a good decision for them or not, but I do believe there are other sites that are probably better. What Tim has been focused on is trying to quickly pull together a deal with a site that will be better than the Marlins site.”
The commissioner said he has been “frustrated with the challenges of getting a stadium situation finalized with an ownership group that’s willing to fund it privately.” He hopes a deal can be done soon because “we believe in where the city is going demographically and from a social perspective … but the time will come when we’ll have to make a decision if we aren’t able to finalize something, and we’ll just move on. I think that would be a shame for people in the city, and a shame for David who has been very passionately focused on this.”
Miami Herald writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.