Leiweke: Miami MLS stadium deal in trouble

Proposed Miami soccer stadium location

Tim Leiweke, the sports-business pro now heading up negotiations for a new Miami MLS stadium, says the project from the David Beckham investment group could collapse because six local homeowners are unwilling to sell their homes at a reasonable price.

The proposal calls for a new 30,000-seat stadium on 10.5 acres of land located next to Marlins Park in the Little Havana neighborhood. The plan would be for the city of Miami to procure all the land needed for the project and then transfer it to the Miami-Dade School Board, thus avoiding property taxes on the project. (The Miami Beckham United group would finance the actual construction of the Miami MLS stadium.) Right now there’s not enough publicly controlled land to move forward with the project, so the plan is buy six houses in the area and fold the land into the project.

Here’s why shrewd developers and investors negotiate options on land purchases before actually announcing a development plan: not surprisingly, the six landowners want a big premium for their parcels. That, in turn, has Leiweke saying that the entire project is threatened by what he termed unreasonable demands, per the Miami Herald:

“They know what we’re doing and unfortunately they’ve let that create an absolutely unrealistic conversation. They can absolutely blow this deal up, and they probably will blow this deal up,” he said. “We’re willing to overpay. We just don’t want to be the stupidest guys on the face of the earth.”

If the negotiations fail, Leiweke said Beckham’s group — which has already whiffed on stadium sites at PortMiami and next to the AmericanAirlines Arena — has yet another fallback plan at an undisclosed site. He faulted Miami Beckham United mostly for the team’s problems, saying “this has not been the smartest negotiation I’ve been a part of.”

Leiweke’s comments come just weeks ahead of a Major League Soccer board of governors meeting scheduled for the first weekend in December. Leiweke said Miami Beckham United will be expected to appear with a deal in place, pending a binding voter referendum in the city. If they don’t have a set agreement and all six properties purchased, he said it’s hard to predict what will happen with Beckham’s option to buy a new MLS franchise.

A more subtle threat was issued by Leiweke: to go ahead with the stadium and just build right up to the landowners’ property lines. That probably won’t be a plus for their property values. Here’s a statement issued by the investment group:

“Miami Beckham United has a great deal of respect for the hard working property owners and residents of Little Havana, which is why we intend to make offers to buy their properties for prices well above fair market appraised value. Because some of the land owners are demanding unreasonable prices, Mayor Regalado suggested we look at the possibility of building our stadium around these properties — and we will. We want to be a part of this community and are open to all suggestions within reason to get this stadium built for the residents of Miami.”

RELATED STORIES: Miami MLS stadium plan developing; Tim Leiweke joins Beckham MLS effort: Report

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