David Beckham’s plan for an Overtown soccer stadium is slated to get its first public hearing Thursday when Miami-Dade County convenes a town hall to discuss the project.
County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose district includes the proposed stadium site, and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez held a conference call Tuesday with Beckham associates to plan the event. It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the YWCA at 351 NW 5th St., a few blocks from the proposed stadium site at the intersection of Northwest Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue.
Beckham negotiator and partner Tim Leiweke is expected to give a presentation, though the team has yet to divulge more than the barest details about its plans for the nine-acre site. The town hall would be the first of its kind since Beckham publicly launched his hunt for a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami at the start of 2014. After efforts to site the stadium at PortMiami, downtown Miami and land next to Marlins Park, Beckham’s team on Dec. 4 announced it had private land in Overtown under contract and had reached a tentative deal with Gimenez to purchase a county-owned site next door.
The event also gives Miami-Dade the first public platform in a stadium deal that has roiled Miami-Dade politics all year. Miami commissioners must change zoning designations and close a street to make the stadium plan work, and Gimenez has clashed with Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado over past stadium plans.
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Soccer talks took an abrupt turn in October when Beckham’s group announced it wanted the school system to own its stadium next to Marlins Park, rather than the county. Beckham was in negotiations with Miami at the time over city land next to the baseball stadium, and Gimenez accused Regalado of petty politics in helping orchestrate the switch.
Regalado’s daughter, school board member Raquel Regalado, is challenging Gimenez in the 2016 county mayoral race. Both Regalados accused Gimenez of being so concerned about a starring role in the soccer talks that he would risk letting a deal die once the school system got involved.
Beckham’s group dropped the Marlins site two weeks ago in favor of Overtown, putting Gimenez back into a high-profile role as he negotiates a proposed sale of about three acres of county land currently used as a truck depot by the county water department.
As of Tuesday evening, Regalado said he had not yet been invited to Thursday’s meeting. Asked if Regalado was invited, Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández wrote in a text message: “It is a community meeting and open to the public.” He said the meeting hosts are Gimenez, Edmonson and Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes the Spring Garden neighborhood, which sits across a canal from the stadium site and is expected to oppose the plan.
If invited, Regalado said he would not attend. “I believe I should not go so I don’t interfere with the dialogue between the residents and the county,” he wrote in a text message. “When they sell to a sole source with no bid,” he said of the proposed transaction between Miami-Dade and Miami Beckham United, “they have to include community benefits.”
To avoid a competitive process, Miami-Dade would sell the land under Florida’s economic-development laws, which require the buyer to pledge to local hiring targets. Gimenez said he would also negotiate benefits sought by the school system when it was slated to be the stadium’s landlord, which would have shielded Beckham from property taxes. The latest proposal calls for the soccer star’s group to own the real estate outright and be subject to property taxes.