Soccer showdown

It seems like fourth time’s the charm for soccer darling David Beckham, who officially secured roughly 9 acres of land, in Overtown spanning the two blocks between N.W. 6th St. and N.W. 8th St. for a new Major League Soccer stadium, according to the South Florida Business Journal. For the past 2 years, Beckham has been cruising the city trying to find a spot to build his dream stadium. He originally hoped to build at Port Miami, but when that deal fell through, he hopped over the bay and set his sights on to a lot next to the American Airlines arena, which didn’t work out either. He most recently tried to acquire land in Little Havana, just next to Marlins Park, the Miami Herald reports.

If it seems like the Overtown deal was totally out the blue, well, that was intentional, according to the Miami Herald. In Little Havana, Beckham’s team had announced their intentions to build a stadium before actually purchasing the land from private landowners. That plan backfired when landowners refused to sell at the price his team was asking. So this time, they decided to sign first and announce later. They’ve already signed a non-binding letter of intent with Mayor Carlos Gimenez and have squared away the deal with Windsor Investment Holdings, which owns 4.2 acres of land as well as  Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department, which owns 2.8 acres of land, among other landowners, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

In the past, Beckham’s team had tried to lower the stadium’s price tag by lobbying for a land subsidy and trying to build on land owned by the school board to avoid paying property taxes. But all his dreams for public subsidies came to naught. In the end, Miami Beckham United agreed to privately finance the land, according to the Guardian, but not without cutting some costs. The group has agreed to spend $150 million to build a 30,000 seat stadium. However, they’re not going to build a stand-alone parking garage, because there’s a metromover stop less than half a mile away. Yet there are plenty of Metromover stops near the American Airlines Arena, and the hectic traffic, congestion, and parking issues could be a prelude to what Overtown residents will be dealing with soon.

Phil Schoen, beINSPORTS and SiriusXMFC Announcer, tweeted after the announcement, “While soccer fans might like to march to the stadium, South Floridians love their air conditioned cars.” He went on to list similar stadiums around the US and the acreage surrounding them — while most stadiums ranged from 5-7 acres, almost all of them had a land plot of well over 10 acres and most had parking spaces. “It’s a huge first step, but hopefully Beckham & co. can purchase the two blocks east of the current plan for parking and room to grow,” he added.

Historic OvertownWhat does this mean for the residents of Overtown? According to Clarence Woods, executive director of the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency, the plot of land is a vacant lot, so “no one is going to be displaced from the acquisition of this land.” But if it expands, that might change and creep into residential areas. Moreover, depending on how it is built, the stadium may “create impositions that would cause hardships with traffic and parking.”

Historically, stadiums have proved to not be sources of sustainable economic growth. The construction jobs that are available are short term and the staffing of the stadium is seasonal work, Woods explained. Beckham’s group has not sought out tax incentives from the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency, the organization that would be involved in issuing tax incentives in exchange for community benefits. As purely a private development, they have no economic impetus to involve the Overtown community as it relates to the workforce, according to Henry Crespo, an Overtown business owner that helps get community folks hired on projects. So even with temporary jobs, “there’s been no conversation with the Overtown community in reference to this new soccer stadium,” Crespo added.

Moving forward, the stadium could “be a positive contributor or hindrance to the neighborhood revitalization that honors the legacy of Historic Overtown. This will all be determined by the ‘how’ of MBU’s approach,” according to Barron Channer, a developer in Overtown and the CEO of BACH Real Estate.

He listed the following recommendations in an e-mail as Beckham’s team moves forward.

  • Design a vibrant street-level experience for residents and visitors.
  • Create business opportunities for small and disadvantaged firms with connection to the Overtown community.
  • Engage the local-area schools and parks with the team’s community programming.
  • Embrace Historic Overtown as the stadium’s location instead of attempting to rebrand or recraft where the stadium is located.
  • Retain advisers who actually know the neighborhood and can help facilitate real conversations.

“If the stadium is designed, built and operated with deliberate intent to be an asset to the community and current residents then the project will be a complement to the rich legacy of Historic Overtown,” he added. “If there is indifference, then the stadium will simply be a structure that takes from the community while not adding to its legacy.”