When David Beckham joined Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and MLS Commissioner Don Garber on a stage overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami this past February to announce that he had exercised his option to purchase an MLS franchise to be based in Miami, the response he received from the general public, the media, and industry colleagues all would have led him to believe that he had a wealth of support on his new venture to bring professional soccer back to South Florida’s greatest city. Was he mistaken?
It is now almost August, 6 months after the announcement and ample time for Beckham and company to do some research and make their proposals for some real estate to build their soccer specific stadium that will serve as the home of the new franchise. The Miami Beckham United Group have made two proposals in such time, in fact, and have been rejected on both occasions. Why then, if Beckham has the support of the community, political leaders, and MLS, have both locations been rejected, and why is Beckham meeting such resistance on his quest?
Securing a spot for a stadium in a mature downtown market is challenging enough, but add in there that Beckham and his group would ideally like to have the stadium be close to or on a body of water, and you get another layer of complexity. The first site at Port Miami was not well received by any means by the local professional community, mainly the shipping and cruise industries, and the city rejected the second proposed site on the bay next to the American Airlines Arena.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez has proposed that the stadium be located next to the Miami Marlins baseball stadium in Little Havana, but Beckham has rejected this notion multiple times. Sources from Beckham’s group have said that the space is too small and does not fall in line with the superstar’s vision. It would appear that Beckham and the city are starting to approach a fork in the road – Beckham wants to go down one path and Miami is going down the other.
Not all support for Beckham and MLS is lost in Miami, however. Brian Corey of the Southern Soccer League, among other supporters, spoke at Miami’s city hall imploring officials to work with Beckham to find a solution and make the stadium finally happen.
We represent the 3,000 people who have signed petitions, residents of the city of Miami, saying that they support soccer in Miami.
The stadium is about much more than just acquiring the land to develop it, however. The facility development process is often overlooked by the common fan, and can frustrate those that do not understand or appreciate the complexity involved with such an undertaking. There are other things to consider such as transportation for fans to and from matches, disruption to local businesses, land developing permits and code regulations and restrictions, and funding among others.
The first site at Port Miami lost support from the city because it was causing such a stir amongst the cruise and shipping industries based at the port that the proposal was rejected, as mentioned above. The anticipated disruption to businesses already established in the area trumped Beckham’s idyllic location for Miami’s version of the ‘March to the Match’ across the causeway. Beckham has enrolled the help of a real estate consultant, among other construction professionals, to help advise on the matter so it is safe to assume that he would only make a bid for a space that would meet the requirements set forth by the city with regard to any building regulations and code restrictions. The stadium will also be privately funded. Beckham has been very vocal about the fact that any proposal he makes will not ask for any public funding from the taxpayers of Miami.
The biggest concern for Beckham and the club’s success with regard to its stadium and location is the accessibility to the city’s residents. The majority of the market for an MLS club in Miami lies within the city limits – or very close to it. Therein lies the importance of having a downtown stadium, as Beckham has stressed on multiple occasions. By making it easy for these fans to get to home matches via the use of public transportation systems already in place, you increase the likelihood they will attend. Part of the reason why previous clubs have failed in Miami is that none of them actually had stadiums located where their fans were. They were either in Fort Lauderdale or another suburb some 30-45 minutes away by car, and for many fans not very accessible. The easier you make it on a consumer to buy/use your product, the more apt they are to make the purchase.
There have been reports suggesting that Beckham could be looking to abandon his efforts in Miami-Dade County for a stadium location and could look to move north to Broward County. The county’s Commissioner Stacey Ritter stated,
I gave him a call and said ‘I see things aren’t going so well in Miami. Have you considered Broward?’ He called me back two days later and said they are open to all alternatives.
While this might suggest Beckham is fed up with his toils in Miami-Dade County, a spokesman for Mayor Gimenez said,
He spoke to them again last week and they told him they were searching for sites in Miami-Dade County. We are going to continue working with them. We want soccer in Miami-Dade County.
Beckham’s real estate advisor, John Alschuler declined to discuss whether Miami Beckham United Group were considering a move to Broward County as a viable option or not. After the wait and anticipation that the city of Miami has endured, this would certainly come as a big blow to those that want to see MLS soccer within the city’s walls. Both Beckham and the city would almost assuredly receive backlash from those passionate fans that have stated that they want MLS in Miami for not coming to an agreement on a space for the stadium. For that reason alone, it would be difficult to imagine that Beckham would consider moving the stadium outside the city of Miami, but it does throw into shock the state of things in South Florida for Beckham and MLS. Wherever the stadium ends up, alignment from Beckham, the city of Miami, and its residents will be a great achievement in and of itself and will serve as the club’s first victory. It would appear, however, from the current state of things, that we are some ways off from the real thing in Miami.