In the first sign of organized opposition to David Beckham’s dreams of bringing professional soccer to Miami, a new community group has formed to push city, county and Major League Soccer leaders to shoot down a 25,000-seat stadium near the Miami River.
On Wednesday, property owners, residents and clergy in Spring Garden and Overtown — the two neighborhoods bordering Beckham’s proposed stadium site — will gather at St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church to rally against what they say is a stadium deal light on community benefits and heavy on consequences.
The meeting is organized by the Overtown Spring Garden Community Collective, a not-for-profit incorporated last week.
“The goal is to stop the stadium,” said James Adams, senior pastor at St. John Church. “We’re a much stronger voice when all of us are on the same page. And we’re trying to do the same thing as opposed to having just splintered groups.”
The organization’s board of directors includes Adams and Bruce Matheson, a wealthy Spring Garden landowner who filed a lawsuit last month seeking to overturn the county’s no-bid agreement to sell a water and sewer facility to Beckham. (Matheson told the Miami Herald that his lawsuit and the organization are not coordinated efforts.)
Attempts to rally against the stadium — for which Beckham and his team of investors are still seeking approvals — are emerging late in the game.
County commissioners voted in June to sell a three-acre property along Northwest Seventh Avenue for $9 million to Miami Beckham United, the last piece of property needed by the soccer star and his investors to compile a 9-acre stadium site. And Major League Soccer owners agreed last week to have league commissioner Don Garber negotiate a final deal to authorize the creation of Beckham’s franchise.
But Adams and other group leaders note that Beckham has yet to make a $450,000 down payment on the purchase of county land, due in September. And even should the sale and MLS approval go through, they say, Beckham’s team of investors still has to obtain special approvals by the Miami City Commission in order to build its stadium — a lengthy process that has yet to begin.
Adams said the group is concerned that a special events venue designed with paltry parking facilities would damage the neighborhood. He also said they’ve been urged to unite in part by public statements about the lack of significant opposition to the stadium by the County Commission and, more recently, in The New York Times.
“We need to correct that fact. That’s not true,” said Amanda Hand, a Spring Garden resident and former lawyer for the Miami city attorney’s office who serves as the group’s registered agent. “Our motto is it’s not a done deal. We’ve heard that way too often.”
The group organized informally weeks ago and sent a letter to city and county leaders in July criticizing the county’s community benefits package and what they said were essentially public subsidies for Beckham in the form of publicly funded infrastructure upgrades. This week, as the Miami New Times first reported, the group began distributing fliers to promote its Wednesday rally.
County spokesman Michael Hernández declined to comment on the group. But he defended the stadium agreement — conducted under the same state law that paved the way for the American Dream Mall in northwest Dade — as a good deal for the county and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The construction of the stadium alone will create hundreds of jobs,” he said. “Major League Soccer will be a good neighbor and partner to the Overtown and Spring Garden communities and to all of Miami-Dade County.”