Soccer / Sports

Beckham's MLS team may hinge with Miami vote

MIAMI -- David Beckham is banking on Miami voters to make his retirement legacy a reality.

The British soccer icon's principal partner made it clear Thursday that a November referendum on a proposal for a downtown waterfront stadium may determine whether Beckham succeeds in bringing a Major League Soccer team to Miami.

"I say there is never all-or-nothing, but I say we're getting very close to that. We're going to put all of our energy and all of our passion into explaining to the people of Miami why this is a great site and why they should endorse it," Marcelo Claure said at a news conference outlining a plan to build a stadium next to AmericanAirlines Arena. "I think we cannot afford to lose this one."

Miami Beckham United unveiled a vision of how the soccer stadium would link the arena and nearby Museum Park to create a sports and cultural center along Biscayne Bay.

After announcing in February his intention to establish a MLS team in Miami, Beckham has focused on a waterfront location. His first choice was a parcel at PortMiami that was met with considerable opposition and this week was ruled out by a vote of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Beckham has not announced a name for his team, and Claure said that won't happen prior to the referendum.

"I think it would be unfair to have a team name without a stadium plan," said Claure, a wireless industry entrepreneur who along with "American Idol" founder Simon Fuller are Beckham's partners in the project.

"I think first and foremost that Major League Soccer has made it very, very clear, no stadium in downtown, no team in Miami."

The new plan entails filling a deep-water boat slip and utilizing an empty parcel behind the arena to create a park connecting Perez Art Museum and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science with Bayfront Park. According to Beckham's representatives, the project would create a net gain of more than four acres of public park space and encompass 23 acres of contiguous green space.

At the urging of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Beckham's group shifted focus to the park site. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado endorsed the idea this week.

Beckham's group has looked at other sites in Miami, but Claure said this one will best meet the requirements of MLS.

The charismatic soccer super star and his backers must reach an agreement with county and city officials, then convince Miami residents the stadium project is in the best interest of their community to win a referendum required by city charter.

Claure said Beckham will be very involved in lobbying the vote in the coming months.

Miami Beckham United has pledged to develop the site and stadium without local funding, though a state subsidy recently approved for stadium construction could be tapped.

Beckham, who was not present at the news conference, said in a statement, "By expanding Museum Park with new public spaces anchored by world-class art and science museum and a world-class soccer club, we'll be activating the waterfront on a year-round basis."

Beckham's group had planned to spend about $250 million to develop a stadium seating about 25,000 at the port, which included an adjacent commercial complex, including hotel and retail space.

John Alschuler, Beckham's project advisor, said the cost would be similar but a different stadium design is being developed that would meld the concourse with the park to provide public space that can be utilized year round. It would not include a commercial complex aside from restaurants.

Alschuler said it hasn't been determined if the new plan could accommodate University of Miami football as had been discussed for the port site.

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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