Downtown decries ‘mystery’ in soccer site
Rumors of a possible Major League Soccer franchise for Miami sparked enthusiasm and caution among directors of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority at their meeting Friday.
Investors representing retired soccer star David Beckham have approached Miami-Dade County with an interest in building a stadium for a potential soccer franchise, either on a public or private site. Their location intentions are still something of a mystery, but PortMiami is in the running.
“The port is the preferred site,” said authority board member Bruno Barreiro, who is a Miami-Dade County commissioner. “We will work with them to look for a site in or near downtown.” Mr. Beckham has said he prefers an urban location.
“But I don’t want it to be said that’s it only here or nowhere,” Mr. Barreiro continued, “and we will not finance or build a stadium for them.”
Board member Alan Ojeda, who is also president of the Rilea Development Group, questioned the wisdom of building a permanent structure at the port.
“This is a place that should be a port. One-and-a-half years from now, the new Panama Canal will be open. Everybody’s competing to have a bigger port,” he said, especially in the wake of giant cargo ships that are coming into the market. PortMiami recently embarked on an 18-month dredging project so that it can accommodate the so-called Post-Panamax ships.
“The port is empty of cargo ships half the time,” said board member Jose Goyanes, owner of Metro Beauty Center, Churchill’s Barbershop and Tre Italian Bistro. “If Miami were located where Jacksonville is, the port would grow.”
“We are not experts in port traffic,” said board member Julie Grimes, who is owner of the DoubleTree Grand Hotel. “The world is coming to Miami.”
“If I were David Beckham, I would de-mystify this process and say, the port’s where I want to be,” said authority Chair Marc Sarnoff, who is a Miami city commissioner. He suggested the board take a favorable position on Miami having a soccer team but not comment on possible locations until more information is available.
In any event, Mr. Barreiro said, traffic and neighborhood-impact studies would have to be done before any decision on a stadium is made.
Board member Neisen Kasdin, office managing shareholder of the Akerman Senterfitt law firm, recused himself from the discussion because he represents Mr. Beckham.