David Beckham missed a February target for securing county land for a Miami soccer stadium, and the lack of parking in plans for the 25,000-seat venue may be a sticking point in the talks.
A senior county official said Tuesday that there is enough concern about where fans would park when attending games at the new Overtown stadium that Miami-Dade might try to negotiate some parking improvements before approving the sale of a three-acre county property to Beckham’s group.
“If you’re not going to provide the parking, you have to convince the people that the way you want to do it is going to work,” said Leland Salomon, Miami-Dade’s top negotiator in the soccer talks that were initially scheduled to end by Feb. 29. “We’re going to raise the issue to the point where at least they know we’re concerned.”
His comments reflect the leading controversy for Beckham’s latest plan to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Read our original story on David Beckham announcing soccer stadium plans for Miami’s Overtown neighborhood. Click here.
Since publicly launching his quest for a Major League Soccer stadium in early 2014, Beckham has abandoned efforts to secure prime government-owned waterfront, as well as a bid to avoid local property taxes by having the site owned by the county or Miami-Dade’s school board. In December, he announced plans to pay market rate for a mix of private and county land in western Overtown, with him and his partners owning the property outright and paying standard property taxes.
But in unveiling their plans for the nine-acre stadium site just north of the Miami River, Beckham’s representatives said there would be no parking garages to go with it. The stadium would rely on a county Metrorail station about three blocks away, and garages and other lots expected to provide 7,000 parking spaces within a half-mile radius.
The parking-free plan led skeptics, including Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, to question the wisdom of a walking strategy, given Miami’s climate and its car-dependent lifestyle. But Beckham’s group cited the tradition of soccer fans in other markets walking to games, and says it plans to lead the way in proving Miami is ready to embrace mass transit and a walking culture.
“You only have to look back to the glory days of the Orange Bowl for an example of a stadium that thrived without parking — and our stadium will be less than half the size of the Orange Bowl,” Beckham’s group said in a statement Tuesday. “The fact is, Miami is becoming an increasingly urban city and soccer is an inherently urban sport around the world, so an MLS stadium in the urban core is a natural fit. Our team is taking a responsible approach that prioritizes public transit, access and walkability.”
From our archives: David Beckham rep: A stadium without parking “is a good bet to make.” Click here.
Salomon, deputy director of the county’s Regulatory and Economic Resources Department, described parking as just one in a string of topics on the table as Miami-Dade negotiates the sale of a three-acre lot that currently serves as a vehicle depot for the county water-and-sewer department.
Miami-Dade is using state law that allows governments to waive bidding requirements on economic-development grounds. Beckham must agree to hiring targets and other local benefits, as well as pay market rate for property Salomon said has been appraised for about $9 million.
Beckham’s negotiating team announced the Overtown plans on Dec. 4, after abruptly dropping its pursuit of a stadium site next to Marlins Park and its ample, city-owned parking garages. A letter by a Beckham lobbyist sent to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Dec. 3 laid out a proposed framework for negotiating the purchase of the three-acre county land. Gimenez signed the “non-binding letter of intent,” and among the agreed-upon items was that the deal go before county commissioners by Feb. 29.
That date came and went this week, and Salomon said the target was too optimistic for the complexity of the deal. “These things don’t happen that quickly,” he said. “Particularly when it’s a controversial issue.”
You only have to look back to the glory days of the Orange Bowl for an example of a stadium that thrived without parking.
David Beckham group’s statement
The stadium site falls under city zoning rules, and Miami’s elected leaders have direct responsibility when it comes to approving the venue’s parking plans. Salomon said that while Miami-Dade can clearly negotiate the details of Beckham’s hiring package and other components related to the economic-development law, the parking issue could be out of Miami-Dade’s reach. “Parking is not something I can demand,” he said. “I don’t know how much clout I have on this, to be honest.”
While the county negotiations bring complications, Beckham’s pursuit of privately owned land was seen as the biggest hurdle in his latest stadium deal. He needs two parcels of land to the north and east of the county site to complete the nine-acre stadium footprint. Beckham representatives said they have the privately owned real estate under contract, but they have yet to announce a closed sale after three months.
The extended negotiations surfaced during a recent city meeting, with Regalado publicly describing the talks as challenging.
“We know that they're still struggling with some private land in the area,” he said during the Feb. 16 meeting of the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority.
Regalado said Tuesday that he received a text in the morning from an assistant to Beckham partner Marcelo Claure about setting up a meeting later in the week. Regalado, whose daughter Raquel is challenging Gimenez in the 2016 county mayoral race, said it was the first contact he had had from the team in weeks.
Tom Korge, one of the partners in a company that holds several parcels adjacent to the water and sewer property, said he expects the sale to go through by the end of March.
“They’re putting up a substantial non-refundable deposit, so I expect them to close,” Korge said of the Beckham group. “Negotiations are always difficult at times.”