Suarez suggests using county land for housing instead of MLS stadium
With a deep-pocketed investor aboard, David Beckham appears ready to buy the three acres needed to complete his stadium site in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
County officials want to get the deal approved quickly, and are expected to ask for a final vote from Miami-Dade commissioners next month after a public meeting with Overtown residents on the stadium plan.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez was eager to get the 13-member county commission to approve the $9 million deal next week. But his office backed off that plan after the commissioner representing the stadium site in Overtown, Audrey Edmonson, objected to a vote before neighborhood residents have a chance to be heard.
“I’ve got to see what my community says,” Edmonson said.
The long-stalled effort to purchase the three acres of county-owned land in Overtown has served as a barometer of Beckham’s stadium quest, since Miami-Dade leaders have been ready to sell but the soccer star’s negotiating squad declined to pursue a purchase.
But with the recent signing of sports mogul Todd Boehly to help bankroll the Miami stadium, Beckham’s representatives have jump-started county talks and want a quick vote of approval, people familiar with the talks said.
“We finally heard from them,” Edmonson said.
We finally heard from them.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson
Dropping the push for a vote next week will leave time for the Beckham group to return to Overtown and have a community meeting about its stadium plans. Beckham representatives held a town hall in Overtown in late 2015, but have been largely silent since.
“Mayor Gimenez and his administration will be working to address Commissioner Edmonson’s concerns,” said Michael Hernández, the mayor’s communications director. “And we are very much open to pushing the agenda item before the board in June, as opposed to next week.”
The pivot on the timing captures the suddenly urgent pace in a stadium deal that has been stalled for more than a year.
At this time last year, Gimenez deputies were in negotiations with Beckham representatives on the details of the proposed deal. But by the fall, county officials reported radio silence from the soccer squad. “I have not heard a word,” Leland Salomon, the county’s economic-development director, wrote in a Nov. 4 email.
With the Beckham representatives now eager to close the real estate transaction, Gimenez’s office is trying for a speedy approval.
Edmonson said it’s important for the Beckham group to reconnect with the Overtown neighborhood before the commission decides on the sale.
“They made the promise to come back to the community,” she said. “That’s something I expect them to do.”
The rush to finalize a land deal first broached in late 2015 captures a milestone for Beckham’s stadium hunt, which publicly launched in early 2014 to fanfare and political momentum. But after his first choice of a stadium site at the county’s PortMiami fizzled, the retired soccer star was forced to give up on two other locations before settling on Overtown.
Last year, his investment group, Miami Beckham United, paid roughly $19 million for six acres of privately owned land in Overtown for the stadium site, with the county land needed to complete the nine-acre assemblage.
Beckham agreed to pay market rate for the property, and an appraisal pegged the land value at $9 million. It’s currently used as a depot for county sewage trucks. Gimenez is using the state’s economic-development law to sell the land in a no-bid deal, touting the 25,000-seat stadium as a boon to the local economy.
The talks with county officials over the land stalled last year as Beckham and partners searched for an investor to finance the $300 million venture, a price that includes costs for launching the team and building a stadium expected to cost more than $200 million. After false starts with the nation of Qatar and an executive tied to the new Brightline rail network, the Beckham team recently signed Boehly, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even with the county land, the Beckham group still must win approval from Miami for the zoning changes needed to build the stadium. Some neighborhood groups oppose the construction. Current owners of Major League Soccer also must approve the agreement and formally allow Beckham to purchase an expansion franchise.