Miami-Dade school board backs negotiations with Beckham for soccer stadium deal

David Beckham arrives for a festive event at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center in February 2014.
David Beckham arrives for a festive event at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center in February 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Miami-Dade County School Board members on Thursday said they are intrigued about a possible deal with David Beckham to bring major league soccer to Miami, giving their superintendent an initial green light to continue pursuing negotiations.

The board met Thursday in an emergency session, a day after the Miami Herald reported that the district had emerged as a new player in the years-long plan to start a Major League Soccer team in South Florida.

Few new details were shared, but school leaders said the district — the fourth-largest in the country — is right to insert itself in the negotiations when so many other big facility deals have not included them.

“One thing that I feel is we should not only expect respect, we should demand respect,” said Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman. “If nothing else, we certainly should be included — must be included — and we have not been.”

The school system’s role would supersede a previous proposed partnership with Miami-Dade County to allow Beckham to build a stadium tax-free. Instead, the school district would be the team’s partner. The arrangement still saves Beckham from paying taxes on the 30,000-seat facility — but now the school board can negotiate its own benefits in return.

“It’s an idea: Do we want to get something big in return and be a part of the picture, or get nothing at all,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho asked.

Carvalho said that any deal would have to be cost-free for the district and protect the school system from liability. The school district would own the facility.

In return, the district wants use of the stadium for its events like band competitions, football showdowns and graduations. The district spends more than $450,000 a year on facility rentals for graduation ceremonies alone.

Carvalho said sponsorships for uniforms and funding for musical instruments could be negotiated — benefits that he said could total $1.7 million.

Other sponsorships would be targeted in specific zip codes of high need, he said. There also has been talk of building a school or other space into the stadium that could be used for educational purposes.

Board member Lubby Navarro also asked the district to consider negotiating naming rights for the stadium.

The shift to the school board is an about-face from when Beckham rolled into town in a whirlwind of publicity in February 2014. With the soccer phenomenon on the verge of landing a major league soccer franchise, a party of sorts was thrown at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami — within a stone’s throw of the school district’s offices.

Beckham appeared in suit and slim tie, surrounded by glad-handing politicians eager to help him bring a team to South Florida. The school board says they were not invited. Even a year later, they recalled the snub.

“The fact that we are an after-the-fact consideration when you need a photo opportunity is something that we have been fighting on a daily basis,” said board member Raquel Regalado.

The school board’s involvement has added a new level of political intrigue: Regalado is running for Miami-Dade County mayor and is the daughter of Miami mayor Tomás Regalado. The city of Miami owns much of the land that is being eyed for the soccer stadium — near Marlins Park in Little Havana — and would transfer it to the school board.

The new negotiations are expected to move along swiftly: The city of Miami will put the stadium deal to a resident referendum. The ballot language needs to be approved by the end of the year so the question can be posed to voters during the March presidential primary, to avoid the cost of a special election.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga