Build it like Beckham - plans revealed for star's proposed MLS project
State-of-the-art waterfront ground in heart of the city as charm offensive starts to win backing of locals already stung by over-ambitious sporting developments.
Published 25/03/2014 | 07:59
David Beckham, one of sport’s great glad-handers, flew into Miami in an attempt to charm the locals.
This is a key week for his plan to launch a Major League Soccer franchise, and in a briefing to local reporters, Beckham made great play of the benefits that a successful football team could bring to the city.
A busy day for Beckham and his team started when architectural advisers unveiled plans to build a dramatic 28,000-seat stadium on a prime piece of waterfront real estate, almost adjacent to the arena where the Miami Heat basketball team are based.
And on Tuesday Beckham will visit the state legislature in Tallahassee to ask for the same annual $3m rebate that has been granted to the other major sporting teams in the city. Setting up the team and the stadium, according to his advisers, will cost upwards of $200m.
Clearly, Beckham’s brand value will not be satisfied with anything less than a state-of-the-art development. Yet he will nevertheless face a challenging task in gathering local support for his project in a city that has already been stung by over-ambitious sporting developments.
“We don’t want to be an enemy to the people who are opposing the stadium,” Beckham said on Monday in a rooftop press conference in downtown Miami. “I want to work with them, to change their mindset about the fact that we are here to help the community and help Miami.
“We are going to Tallahassee tomorrow [Tuesday], which I am looking forward to, because I like a challenge. We will be funding this stadium ourselves, but we want to be treated like every other franchise is treated. Not anything more or anything less.”
This project is a major undertaking for Beckham, whose original deal with LA Galaxy included a clause stating that he would be able to buy his own MLS franchise for a fee of $25m – a bargain by any standards – when he retired.
Now we are reaching the nitty gritty stage, with the most significant – and challenging – issue being the choice of site. There are at least three other options if the waterfront scheme does not come off, with the most likely involving land adjacent to the freshly-built Marlins Park in Little Havana.
“We do have options,” said Beckham. “There are other sites that we have looked at. But for me, Miami is all about the water, all about the culture, and I don’t think people see that enough. This stadium is all about the skyline and that’s what we want people to see all around the world.
“I’ve been to the Heat games, I’ve been all around that area, and I’ve seen the vibrant atmosphere down there. That’s what I want to be part of.”
Beckham’s case will not be helped by the precedent of the Florida Marlins’ new stadium, which was built with help from the public purse yet spent much of the last baseball season half full while the home team struggled to compete. The project is believed to have made a $2 billion hole in the city’s finances.
There was also the case of Miami’s previous MLS team, the Miami Fusion, who never attracted sizeable crowds and folded in 2001. In the words of Adam Barrett, the tournament director of Miami’s Sony Open tennis tournament, “Miami is a hard place to sell a sports team because there is just so much else to do.”