Published On: Wed, Dec 31st, 2014

Miami Still Trying to Find Home for David Beckham’s Future Soccer Franchise

Miami’s Arquitectonica and 360 Architecture

David Beckham’s business team swooped into Miami a year ago, full of irresistible excitement and lofty ideas, and got politicians to agree to negotiate a location for a new Major League Soccer stadium, the Miami Herald said.

An enthusiastic Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously on Dec. 17, 2013, to authorize Mayor Carlos Gimenez to sit down with Beckham’s representatives and try to find a home for a professional soccer franchise to be owned by the retired English footballer, one of the world’s most-famous celebrities, the Herald said.

Twelve months after that vote, there is still no stadium site. Beckham’s group has stayed largely silent since June, regrouping — and, some supporters fear, reconsidering — after feeling burned by politicians who eagerly proposed potential sites on public land only to quickly back away from them, according to the report.

The county and city commissions nixed stadium proposals at Port Miami and on a boat slip north of American Airlines Arena, stinging Beckham’s team and forcing them to question whether they really wanted to come here, the Herald said.

County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, a Beckham supporter, said he plans to propose legislation in 2015 asking Beckham to consider temporarily locating his team at Florida International University’s main campus in West Miami-Dade, which is in Zapata’s district. Once there’s a team for fans to cheer, negotiating a stadium may not be as difficult, Zapata said, according to the report.

“It makes it easier to sell a known product. And it doesn’t look good for us to not be proactive, ” he said. “Until we figure out a stadium plan, I think we’ve got to get a team on the field.”

Earlier this year, Beckham exercised an option in his player contract to purchase a franchise for a deeply discounted $25 million after his retirement. However, it’s unclear how long he has to come up with financial and stadium plans. MLS has required new franchises to build soccer-specific facilities — preferably in urban, downtown locations — to replicate the business model that has worked in cities such as Seattle and Portland, the report said.

MLS has been hesitant to try its luck again in Miami after the Fort Lauderdale-based Fusion folded in 2001. The league’s president has scorned a possible location next to Marlins Park in Little Havana because it’s not downtown — even though MLS and the city of Miami wrote draft agreements to build a stadium there six years ago, the Herald said.

One of Beckham’s investors — his manager, Simon Fuller — has called the site “spiritually tainted” by the unpopular public financing for the Marlins’ ballpark, though the group has never taken the location entirely off its list. Marlins President David Samson declined to say last month whether he’s been approached by Beckham’s group, the report said.

Privately, politicians have continued to say that site offers Beckham the best shot at leasing public land at a discount so he can afford to build a stadium on his own — especially since returning to the home of the old, beloved Orange Bowl might entice the University of Miami to share the expense, the Herald said.

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