Beckham’s Miami MLS stadium: allies and opponents

MLSDavid Beckham certainly created a stir with a proposed Miami MLS stadium, and allies and opponents are emerging to move the process along.

Beckham and his financial partners, operating under the Miami Beckham United corporate umbrella, say they’re willing to move ahead with a privately financed Miami MLS stadium, provided the city and county help with land. In addition, a state program assisting sports-facility funding could come into play. The expansion franchise could begin playing in 2017 if a land/funding plan comes together.

In the United States, there’s no single soccer player that rises to Beckham’s popularity: insiders know how great Sebastián Fernández and Mauro Díaz are, but Beckham has the name and face recognition worldwide, the sort of celebrity presence that instantly gives a Miami MLS stadium credibility.

Beckham and investors have presented six potential stadium sites to Miami-Dade Stadium officials, but the one that’s generated the most buzz and opposition is a 12-acre site at PortMiami’s southwest corner, the land extension where the big cruise ships dock. In general, fans and county officials like the idea, which will boost the area even more as a destination (American Airlines Arena is in the same area), and the thought of walking to a soccer stadium on Biscayne Bay on a warm summer night, with breezes coming off the ocean, is certainly seductive.

Seductive enough for Royal Caribbean to oppose the stadium and propose their own development plan for the  entire 36-acre site — one that does not include a Miami MLS stadium. Instead, Royal Caribbean Cruises unveiled its own development plan that includes retail, apartments, hotels and an expo space. From the Miami Herald:

“We have deep reservations about using this port as a location for a stadium,” said Rob Zeiger, vice president and chief communications officer for Royal, whose existing parking lot, daycare center and employee gym would need to move to make way for a stadium that could contain 25,000 to 40,000 seats. The port’s southwest corner is too shallow to accommodate cruise or cargo ships.

Zeiger refused to elaborate on the company’s objections, though a top Royal executive privately raised traffic concerns in a recent meeting with Rebeca Sosa, the County Commission chairwoman and a leading skeptic of the stadium plan.

Royal’s attempted Beckham block comes as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is in talks to craft a deal that would bring professional soccer to the county and add entertainment options to a port that sits a short drive from downtown Miami.

Royal Caribbean is a major player in the Miami economy, so the opposition is real. However, Beckham’s group has a major player of its own: Brightstar, a major player in the wireless field. The firm, specializing in the Hispanic market, did over $10 billion in revenue last year and is projecting solid growth this year and next.

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August Publications