David Beckham's soccer group and a Major League Soccer executive met with officials from the city of Doral to discuss the possibility of building an MLS stadium in the suburban west Miami-Dade city.
The meeting, disclosed by Doral Mayor Juan Carlos "JC" Bermudez at a City Council meeting Wednesday evening, included members of the city's administration, MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, Beckham partner Jose Mas and real estate developer David Martin, who owns the land in consideration.
The meeting confirms the Beckham group's interest in the site of a Pepsi distribution center at 7777 NW 41st St. The 24-acre property was purchased by companies controlled by developers Martin and Stephen Bittel for $40 million in January.
"The meeting went relatively well," Bermudez said at Wednesday's council meeting. The mayor kept his comments brief, but the announcement further establishes the potential for an MLS team to be based in a city outside of Miami's city limits.
The Mas brothers, who run the Miami-based MasTec infrastructure firm and became Beckham's partners in the effort to bring top-flight soccer to Miami-Dade county, told the Miami Herald in March that they are looking at "five or so sites" in the county for a stadium.
A much-discussed contender among them: Melreese golf course, a publicly owned facility housed in a Miami park near Miami International Airport. Miami's administration is waiting for a formal proposal from the Beckham group before taking the matter to the City Commission — though some commissioners have already chafed at the concept of leasing out space in a public park for a soccer stadium complex.
City Manager Emilio Gonzalez has said he wouldn't consider any plan that wouldn't benefit Miami financially and provide some amount of public space on the soccer campus, which would probably be built on some portion of Melreese's 18-hole golf course.
"We've not been presented a formal proposal," Gonzalez said. "We're expecting one soon."
If a Melreese stadium plan cleared Miami's commission, the fate of the proposal would likely rest with voters through a referendum, city leaders have said.
By contrast, Beckham would likely have a clearer path to breaking ground on a private site in Doral.
"In this transaction, It seems like it would be a cleaner process," said Doral Vice Mayor Ana Maria Rodriguez , who supports a stadium in the growing suburban city. "And no public money would be expended on it."
Proximity to MIA brings problems for Melreese as a stadium site.
A recent analysis by the county-owned airport of a potential Melreese stadium noted the golf course is close enough to an MIA runway that a height limit of 70-feet — seven stories — would apply in some areas. The Beckham stadium plan for Overtown had a height of about 100 feet, so the restrictions don't stand as a deal breaker. But the limits do cap how much extra revenue the Mas brothers could generate from the commercial real estate complex they want to add on to their for-profit stadium.
Jorge Mas has talked of creating some sort of tech hub to boost the economic output of the stadium area — building high-end office space the organization could rent for top dollar near the airport. The complex could include a hotel and convention space, too.
The three-page MIA document, titled "Preliminary Analysis of the proposal by City of Miami [for] an MLS Stadium at Melreese Golf Course," includes other potential problems for Beckham relocating his long-delayed MLS plan from Overtown to the site off the Miami River.
"Part of the potential site in question lies within the Outer Safety Zone for Runway 9-27," read the report, obtained through a public-records request, "which, among other restrictions, prohibits buildings for public assembly in excess of 1,000 persons. There is no variance of this provision."
Gonzalez was MIA's director just a few months ago and is fluent in the various development restrictions surrounding the airport. The Beckham group is apparently in talks with MIA about how to work around some of the hurdles. Jorge Mas met with Gonzalez's replacement, Lester Sola, on April 3 about the analysis, according to the emails.
Doral, meanwhile, appears to have fewer obstacles.
Doral City Manager Edward Rojas told the Miami Herald the conversation focused on what land-use approvals might be needed to make way for a "soccer village" concept that would include retail and office space in addition to a stadium. He suggested there wouldn't need to be any extraordinary approvals for a stadium that would be about 130 feet tall.
"These types of uses are contemplated in our comprehensive plan," he said.
Rodriguez, the Doral vice mayor, said a soccer stadium would fit well into Doral's development. Should Beckham's five-year quest to field an MLS team in Miami-Dade conclude in her city, she would see it as a boon to the local economy.
"I hope we get it," she said.