Soccer icon David Beckham, outgoing University of Miami president Donna Shalala and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber are scheduled to meet Friday in Miami about possibly partnering on a football-soccer stadium, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.
Beckham wants to bring a MLS team to Miami and has spent the past year running into political roadblocks as he and his group tried to secure a viable site to build a stadium. Shalala believes Sun Life Stadium is too big a home for the Hurricanes football team and too far from campus. She called it “too big and cavernous for a school our size,’’ in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
She said she would favor a 40,000- to 44,000-seat venue, which would be larger than the 25,000- to 30,000-seat stadium MLS officials prefer but probably a size the league could live with. Shalala also happens to be a huge soccer fan. She is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors.
A statement from the Beckham group said: “David, [and partners] Marcelo [Claure] and Simon [Fuller] are making progress toward bringing an MLS club to Miami-Dade County. We’re in the process of identifying viable sites and are entertaining a number of options. We look forward to sharing positive news with our fans soon.”
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Both sides are said to be interested in a partnership, but there would be complications to get past.
UM has 17 years remaining on its lease with Sun Life Stadium, and it might be expensive and difficult to break the lease. One option might be to cut a deal whereby the Hurricanes play one or two big games at Sun Life per season — for example, the game against Florida State, which typically draws near-sellout crowds.
Also, they would have to find a site that would satisfy both sides and sit well with city and county officials, who rejected the original two waterfront sites Beckham’s group explored — the port and a Biscayne Boulevard site adjacent to AmericanAirlines Arena.
One site on the table is next to Marlins Park. That would be appealing to UM because it is next to the old Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes’ longtime home. Miami’s original MLS club, the now-defunct Miami Fusion, was supposed to play at the Orange bowl before political issues sent the team to Fort Lauderdale.
A source told the Herald that UM is less interested in two other sites that have been mentioned, one in Overtown and another near the old Bertram boatyard near Miami International Airport.
UM would be willing to consider contributing toward construction costs, the source said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Friday with Beckham’s group, mayoral spokesman Michael Hernández said Thursday. Hernández said Garber and Claure are scheduled to be there, but that he could not confirm whether Beckham will be there. The location hasn’t been determined.
Miami Herald writers Barry Jackson and Doug Hanks contributed to this report.