Prospect of Miami MLS Stadium in Overtown Faces Questions

Miami MLS Stadium rendering

Going forward, the Miami MLS ownership headlined by David Beckham must clear several hurdles before constructing a Miami MLS stadium in Overtown. 

The effort to bring an MLS expansion team to Miami has been unfolding for several years, but has made significant progress of late. Last month, the league and Beckham’s group–which includes prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, as well as American Idol founder Simon Fuller, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure–announced plans for the team. The club could begin play as early as 2020, and Beckham’s group has been eyeing a nine-acre site in Overtown that would be used for the construction of a privately financed, $225-million stadium.

Plans for Overtown were first unveiled in late 2015, but it took until last June for Miami-Dade County to approve an agreement that allowed the Beckham group to move forward with the process of purchasing three county-owned acres needed for the site. That was a significant step in the process, but the Overtown plan still faces some hurdles. First, Bruce Matheson continues to argue that the land for the stadium was sold below fair market value and should have been subjected to a bid process. He lost his first legal challenge when his lawsuit was dismissed, but recently filed an appeal.

Additionally, various governmental approvals are still required before construction for a Miami MLS stadium at the Overtown site can begin. Some residents in both Overtown and the adjacent Spring Garden neighborhood have been vocal in their opposition to the plan, and that sentiment against the stadium could pose a challenge for the MLS ownership group’s effort. More from The Miami Herald:

Assuming Beckham’s new majority partners, brothers Jorge and José Mas, stick with the Overtown site and close on the final remaining piece of property for their land assemblage, they will face some daunting regulatory hurdles. Those include land-use changes, rezonings and the permanent closure of a busy thoroughfare, Northwest Seventh Street, not to mention environmental review and potentially contentious public hearings before appointed boards and elected officials. The area is located in the City of Miami.

That means plenty of opportunity for opponents of the privately financed stadium to block or delay approvals. Some neighbors are already pledging to fight the plan, both in historically black Overtown and in the adjacent historic neighborhood of Spring Garden. They cite some of the usual flashpoints, such as noise from games and concerts and the impact on local traffic, but also some singular elements of the announced plan, including the lack of on-site parking.

In addition, wealthy activist Bruce Matheson, who owns property in Spring Garden, is suing Miami-Dade County over its decision to sell the Beckham group a 3-acre truck depot yard for $9 million without seeking competing bids for the land.

“Our motto is, it’s not a done deal,” said Amanda Hand, a Spring Garden resident who has helped spearhead neighborhood opposition to the stadium in collaboration with some Overtown residents. “That we will challenge it at every step is absolutely true. There is potentially nothing that will change our neighborhoods more than a 25,000-seat open-air stadium with 40 events a year, including lots of concerts.”

Technically, the Beckham group does not own the entirety of the Overtown site at this point. Six acres of privately held land were purchased in 2016, but acquisition of the three acres owned by the county is not yet complete. While last year’s vote by Miami-Dade County officials allowed the sale process to move forward, the Beckham group has until June of this year to close on the site.

The Herald also notes that the Mas brothers have reportedly raised concerns about the Overtown site in private conversations, while Miami mayor Francis Suarez has indicated a willingness to discuss an alternate location. Before unveiling plans for Overtown in late 2015, Miami MLS backers considered several other sites around the city, including land surrounding Marlins Park in Little Havana.

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