David Beckham and his investors have purchased the private land needed for a new stadium in Overtown, the organization announced Thursday, marking the first time the celebrity athlete has actually acquired Miami real estate for his Major League Soccer franchise.
The milestone gives the Beckham partnership ownership of about two-thirds of the nine-acre stadium site, according to the statement, and comes after more than two years of failed bids involving three other locations. The deals allow Beckham to now move fully into the political arena to win county approval for the purchase of government-owned land needed to complete the site for the stadium, and city approval of a zoning overhaul needed to build it.
“We have the right site, the right ownership group, and a loyal base of fans counting down the days until our first match,” Beckham partner Marcelo Claure, the CEO of Sprint, said in a statement. “We’re all-in on Overtown, and we couldn’t be more excited about moving forward with plans to deliver the most responsible stadium in Miami history.”
Miami Beckham United, the corporate entity Beckham owns with Claure, American Idol creator Simon Fuller, and others, has never made this much progress in its high-profile pursuit of a Miami stadium. Beckham wants a 25,000-seat home for the MLS expansion team he was given the option to purchase as a bonus for signing with the L.A. Galaxy soccer squad in 2007. Beckham’s option to purchase the franchise at a deep discount has been extended as his negotiators failed to land deals to build a stadium at PortMiami, next to the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, and, most recently, across from Marlins Park in Little Havana.
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The current site sits just north of the Miami River, in western Overtown and a short walk from the Spring Garden neighborhood. Bounded by Northwest Eighth Street to the north and Sixth Street to the south, the nine-acre property would be privately owned by the Beckham group, which began publicly chasing a Miami stadium in late 2013.
Beckham and partners are not asking for local subsidies to build or operate the stadium, and also say they plan to pay full property taxes for the land and venue. When the Marlins Park deal fell through in late 2015, Beckham declared Overtown his new top choice. The Dec. 4 announcement on Overtown included news that the partnership had, for the first time, signed sales contracts to purchase land for a stadium.
Actually buying the nine-acre property has taken longer than expected. Beckham and his ownership group hit delays in trying to close real estate deals for about six acres worth of privately-owned parcels surrounding an Overtown truck depot owned by the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department.
When the Overtown site was announced in December, Beckham’s group wrote Miami-Dade that it would like to purchase the county land before March 1. But as negotiations on the private land dragged on, Beckham’s representatives scratched that timetable in order to give more time to close deals with the private owners. With those deals closed Wednesday, Beckham now needs to buy the county land to complete the stadium assemblage.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wants to use the state’s economic-development laws to waive bidding requirements for the three-acre county parcel. The process requires Beckham’s group to pay market rate, which the county estimates at $9 million, and agree to a package of benefits that include hiring requirements for local residents.
A top official in the Gimenez administration recently raised concerns about the lack of parking in Beckham’s stadium plan, which relies on fans walking from a nearby Metrorail station and from thousands of parking spaces available at surface lots and garages within a half-mile radius. Beckham also must win support from the Miami City Commission, which must approve the actual stadium plans and the closing of Northwest Seventh Street to accommodate the venue’s two-block footprint.
A Gimenez spokesman said Thursday the negotiations with county officials remain on track, but declined to offer a timetable for when a deal could be ready for final approval by the 13-member county commission. “They’re working on it,” said Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s communications chief. “It’s just matter of it being done correctly, and getting it to the commission.”
Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the team briefed him Thursday on the closed land deals, and that Beckham’s group expects soon to take a final stadium plan before MLS owners for final approval. Alfonso also expects Miami to quickly receive applications for the street closures, rezoning and re-platting needed to start construction.
He said Miami Beckham United has also expressed interest in buying a small, nearby city property for employee parking.
Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who represents the area where the stadium would be built, said he's hopeful a soccer stadium will be good for the community, but remains cautious with his predictions.
“It's difficult to determine whether or not you have a pro,” as opposed to a con when a stadium opens in a neighborhood, Hardemon said. “I want to be reasonable with whatever the benefits are, and expect good to come —but not the world.”
The largest piece of private land Beckham’s team needed consists of a four-acre parking lot north of the Water and Sewer department owned by Windsor Investment Holdings, a Coral Gables limited liability company.
A collection of smaller parcels east of the county site are owned by New Miami River View, an LLC with three politically connected owners. State corporate records show the company is controlled by Coral Gables lawyer Thomas Korge and his brother, Christopher, also a lawyer as well as a longtime politico and lobbyist in Miami-Dade and a top Democratic donor.
The third person behind New Miami River View: Barry Goldmeier, a developer and father of Gimenez’s paid fundraiser for the mayor’s 2016 reelection campaign, Brian Goldmeier.