Beckham MLS group formally commits to Marlins Park site

MLSThe David Beckham MLS group has formally committed to a new soccer stadium site next to Marlins Park, leading the way for a 2018 expansion franchise.

Beckham has a contractual right to a discounted MLS franchise as a result of his final playing contract, and all along he and his investors — which includes American Idol founder Simon Fuller and investor Marcelo Claure — have focused on Miami. Their efforts to procure city and/or county land for a waterfront stadium were rebuffed, as Miami and Miami-Dade officials have continually pushed the investors toward the Marlins Park/Little Havana location — not that it’s a great location, but it lessens their questionable decision to finance a new Miami Marlins ballpark there. The first reaction from Beckham’s group: the site is “spiritually tainted” and not worthy of discussion.

Reality intervened, however. Faced with the alternative of walking away from a potentially lucrative Miami market, the Beckham group decided to go along with politicians’ wishes and formally commit to the Little Havana site. This decision was hinted at for several weeks — we’ve covered it a couple of times — but it became officials when Beckham and crew officially notified the city of their interest in the Marlins Park site. From the Miami Herald:

“We have done a considerable amount of work to understand the requirements of the Site and its potential as the home of our Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise,” the trio wrote in the letter. “While there is still work to be done, including completing the land assembly, we firmly believe that we can build a world-class stadium at the Site.”…

Though the original Marlins Park plan called for a soccer stadium to go next door, Beckham’s group resisted the site in favor of locations closer to the city’s booming downtown. With Beckham now onboard with Little Havana, Regalado said he doesn’t predict political resistance to the effort.

“People always thought a soccer stadium would be built next to Marlins Park. It’s a very different situation than the slip. The slip was too complicated,” Regalado said. “I don’t see this conversation going the same direction.”

Perhaps. The clock is now ticking, as the Beckham group now has 90 days to close a stadium deal in order to exercise its option on the discounted MLS franchise. The city and county don’t actually own all the land needed to make this happen: other properties will need to be acquired, and now that owners know the clock is ticking, expect some outrageous demands. And the exact details still need to be worked out: it looks like we’re talking about a 25,000-seat facility sans any football configuration (which means the University of Miami football team will remain at Sun Life Stadium) owned by Miami-Dade County (avoiding property taxes) but funded by the Beckham team. Still lots of places where the deal could fall apart, but at least things are moving.

UPDATE: This afternoon city of Miami commissioners voted to move forward on talks with the Beckham group about the new stadium.

RELATED STORIES: Miami MLS stadium site focuses on Marlins Park area; Marlins Park back in play for Miami MLS stadium; Miami-Dade pushing Beckham MLS team to FIU home; Beckham: We’re close to MLS stadium decision; Garber: Miami no longer lock for MLS franchise; Another prominent Miami politician pushes MLS stadium next to Marlins Park; MLS rejects Little Havana stadium site; Beckham looking at LA?; Beckham MLS bid now seeking Plan C stadium solution; Miami rejects boat-slip site for new Beckham MLS stadium; Miami-Dade: No new MLS stadium for Beckham at port site

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