David Beckham sealed the deal.
A little more than four years ago, the soccer superstar arrived with big dreams of bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami and building the team and its fans a waterfront stadium downtown — on county-owned land.
Of course, he got a Miami-style greeting: a warm embrace — and a smack upside the head. But we admire his persistence.
Monday, older, wiser and a bit roughed up, Beckham announced the realization of his dream with the help of his new local financial team, led by Jorge and Jose Mas. The stadium will be in Overtown, not the postage-stamp-sized piece of land he first coveted at PortMiami.
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The announcement paves the way for construction of a 25,000-seat stadium built with private dollars on private land and without government subsidies.
The emphasis is ours. But we speak for a community that remains really ticked off at being taken for fools by the previous owner of the Miami Marlins. Residents learned that bitter lesson from the Marlins baseball stadium deal, which has left us with a “spiritually tainted“ stadium in Little Havana and a tax burden for years. Miami-Dade and Miami shouldered 80 percent of the cost of the stadium, borrowing $488 million to do it. That final deal, with interest, is expected to cost taxpayers $2.6 billion by 2049. (Last year, Jeffrey Loria, who never seemed to lose sleep over the fast one he pulled on taxpayers, sold the Marlins for $1 billion.)
By the time Beckham arrived, we were skeptical about sports team owners and their stadiums. We weren’t going to be fooled again. Thankfully, Beckham persevered and didn’t give up on Miami.
The city’s relationship with Beckham began —as most with stunningly attractive suitors do — when, in November 2013, Beckham announced he wanted to build a stadium on a parking lot near Royal Caribbean Cruise Line headquarters.
The Miami-Dade Commission swooned — at first — and directed Mayor Carlos Gimenez to negotiate with the Beckham group to find a stadium site. But some commissioners warned the port might not be a good home for Beckham. And they were right. Some commissioners recalled the acrimony of the Marlins deal. They were right, too.
By May 2014, the deal for county-owned waterfront property was off, largely because of the public’s pushback, understandably led by Royal Caribbean. The stadium would be uncomfortably close to its building.
For a bit, there was talk of pockets of waterfront property next to the AmericanAirlines Arena, or of going to a University of Miami site, or to another next to Marlins Park.
By June 2016, Beckham was still hunting for a deep-pocketed investor to finance the stadium, expected to cost at least $175 million. Not until a year later did the county step in.
Miami-Dade said it would use the state’s economic development law to sell the land to Miami Beckham United for $9 million. In return, the Beckham group agreed to create 50 full-time jobs on the property within six years, and half must pay at least the county’s living wage — above minimum wage. Not only should that be a promise kept, but “half” and “at least” should just be the minimum. They should do better. This remains a poor community, for all its glitz.
Monday, it all came together, just like that. We praise Beckham for his perseverance and his insistence that Miami is the right place.