Miami is pushing back on a last-minute requirement that David Beckham’s soccer stadium only hire county police officers to patrol inside the facility while city officers are left with traffic control and other duties outside.
County Commissioner José “Pepe” Diaz demanded the requirement Tuesday in exchange for his vote to sell the Beckham partnership a county truck depot in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood for the planned 25,000-seat stadium. The Beckham partnership agreed on the spot, clearing the way for the $9 million land deal. It quickly sparked the kind of political spat that has plagued the stadium quest for much of the last four years.
“It concerns me that the County Commission would do that,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Wednesday. “That was crazy.”
The flap over police shifts at a planned stadium still awaiting zoning approval for a 2020 opening may pale compared to other fights Beckham has faced in Miami. But the harsh words from Regalado about the county’s just-concluded stadium deal come as the Beckham squad wants to project harmony and political momentum to Major League Soccer as it formally requests a franchise expansion in the coming weeks.
It concerns me that the County Commission would do that. That was crazy.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado
MLS commissioner Don Garber has warned Beckham’s investors they have until the end of the year to secure a Miami stadium site, and the team needs city approval for zoning changes and a planned street closing around the nine-acre stadium site north of the Miami River.
“The approval of Major League Soccer is by no means a given,” Beckham partner Tim Leiweke said during a Wednesday press conference after Diaz joined eight other county commissioners to approve the land deal. “This a major step today. We are closer than ever for an MLS franchise. We’re excited. We’re dedicated.”
Miami-Dade has imposed similar restrictions on county-owned facilities within city limits, including Marlins Park and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. County officers and firefighters pick up the off-duty assignments required inside the gates of large venues, while their city counterparts work the streets outside.
And while Miami’s police chief said the arrangement “works well,” he would prefer to have an all-city police force assigned to major events in Miami. That makes it easier for residents to know who to contact with reports or complaints, and allows city leaders to have better oversight of public safety at the stadium, Chief Rodolfo “Rudy” Llanes said.
“If there is a crime there, if there is a disruption issue, the people are not going to call the county. They’re going to call us,” Llanes said. “For us, the issue is accountability.”
I’m certain that the police agencies will work this out reasonably if there are issues.
Neisen Kasdin, David Beckham representative
County officials and a Beckham representative defended the arrangement as a legitimate benefit that Miami-Dade secured from the buyer of a county facility currently operated by the Water and Sewer Department. In exchange for buying land in a no-bid process, Miami Beckham United agreed to create 50 full-time jobs at the site, give extra consideration to local vendors and provide other economic benefits for the surrounding neighborhood.
From his seat on the dais, Diaz requested another concession from the buyers: agreeing to provide county employees with the kind of off-duty assignments that help make firefighters and police some of the best-paid workers in local government.
“I thought it was important,” he said in an interview. Noting the Beckham plan for a stadium without garages, he said Miami will need to deploy even more officers in the surrounding neighborhoods on game days.
“They’re going to need a lot of police officers to protect the people out there,” Diaz said. “I think it’s a good thing when you have two great police departments working together.”
Both Regalado and Llanes said they’ve asked city lawyers to examine whether the hiring requirement violates any laws. Regalado said he doesn’t like the idea of Miami-Dade being able to impose police agreements on private landowners within city limits. Miami-Dade lawyers endorsed Diaz’s request for the agreement during Tuesday’s County Commission debate, writing it into a deal that gives Beckham’s group more than a year to close on the land.
Neisen Kasdin, the Beckham lawyer and lobbyist who addressed county commissioners Tuesday, said there was no legal prohibition to what he described as a “business” arrangement. He also doubted there would be any long-lasting friction over the division of labor.
“I’m certain that the police agencies will work this out reasonably if there are issues,” he said in an interview.