David Beckham's Miami soccer stadium land sale gets approval

7 June 2017

The Miami-Dade Commission voted on Tuesday to approve a deal to sell David Beckham’s group nearly three acres of county land, representing a major hurdle cleared in the former England and Manchester United star’s push to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city.

The commissioners voted nine to four in favor to ratify a recommendation by the mayor to sell Beckham’s partnership a county truck-depot at the corner of Northwest Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, which would become the last piece in a nine-acre site for a planned 25,000-seat stadium on the Miami River.

“By purchasing the last piece of land needed for our privately-funded stadium, Miami Beckham United (MBU) is achieving another major milestone on the way to Major League Soccer formally awarding Miami a franchise,” read a statement from MBU. “The group has assembled a world-class team of partners, presented a vision for building the premier soccer club in the Americas, and assembled the land needed to build our stadium. Now is the time for MLS to move forward in helping us deliver the soccer club that Miami has been waiting for.”

Beckham’s group will pay just over $9 million for the last piece of land. It has already paid $19 million for the other six acres needed. Beckham’s group says the planned stadium would be privately funded, and the stadium would also be subject to county property tax.

It’s a major development in what has been at times an arduously slow and often frustrating  process for the English soccer icon and his plans for Miami. MLS has not officially awarded Miami an expansion franchise, because of the lack of a land and stadium deal.

A contract he signed in 2007 with the Los Angeles Galaxy gave Beckham the right to start an expansion franchise for $25 million, and in 2013 he picked Miami as where he would want to put a team. The plan has changed many times along the way, most notably because he was unable to get waterfront land that his group first coveted for a stadium site.

“I will tell you this is probably the best site we have found, for many respects,” Beckham group attorney Neisen Kasdin said, before listing reasons that include the site’s proximity to several modes of public transportation and the Miami River.

The vote in Miami on Beckham’s land deal was preceded by several members of the community urging commissioners to vote no, mostly citing noise and traffic concerns.

“This land has been an eyesore for years. Something needs to be done with it, now,” said commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents the neighborhood where the stadium is planned.

The deal that allowed the Miami Marlins to get a new taxpayer-built ballpark on the former Orange Bowl site is still the source of major contention for the city and the county. There’s also skepticism about the Beckham group’s plan to build a stadium with no on-site parking, with plans instead to rely on shuttles, walking and public transportation.

“As far as sports deals go with the county, this one isn’t so bad,” commissioner Joe Martinez said.

Beckham is not the only soccer name pursuing MLS expansion these days; Landon Donovan has joined the ownership group that is hoping to bring a team to San Diego. It has not been easy going for either.

The victory for Beckham came just one day after San Diego’s city council decided not to finance a special election that would have brought plans of building a new soccer complex there to a vote. In a pair of tweets, Donovan wrote that “we have to respect the process” and that “just because we’re down at halftime doesn’t mean we stop trying.”