Representatives of footballing icon David Beckham have unveiled the latest version of the stadium the former England captain wants to build as a home for his new franchise in Miami, Florida.
Tim Leiweke, one of the investors behind Miami Beckham United, spoke to local politicians and residents at a Town Hall meeting last Wednesday (17 May) in Overtown, the neighbourhood where Beckham wants to locate the stadium.
According to the Miami Herald, Leiweke conceded Beckham’s consortium had experienced “bumps in the road” in getting public and political approval for the project, which was first revealed almost 18 months ago.
The Beckham group needs an agreement to buy a nine-acre parcel of county land near the Miami River before it can get formal approval from Major League Soccer (MLS) to establish the franchise. Todd Boehly, co-owner of baseball franchise the L.A. Dodgers, is reportedly working with the Beckham group to buy the county land for US$9m (€7.9m, £6.3m) using the state’s economic-development laws.
County representatives are due to vote on the revamped proposals in early June.
At the public meeting, Leiweke introduced changes to the provisional design. According to the Herald, these respond to concerns raised by residents that a “hulking stadium would choke the area”.
The new-look facility, created by sports architects Populous, is lighter and airier than the previous iteration. The open-roofed structure, with a capacity of 25,000, features a thin canopy, with bits of the field visible from above, and walls that are open to the elements above the seats.
Parking spaces are limited, but in what Beckham lobbyist Spencer Crowley described at the meeting as a “paradigm shift” for major leisure facilities, spectators will be encouraged to come by boat, bus or on foot to reduce traffic in the neighbourhood.
“We’re going to be encouraging the use of Metromover, Metrorail, water taxis, ride-sharing,” he said.
Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, said the Overtown site is now the only option if Miami is to have an MLS team. A long-running search for suitable land by the Beckham consortium – which includes Leiweke, Bolivian/American telecoms entrepreneur Marcelo Claure and former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller – has previously seen three alternative sites deemed unsustainable.
According to Leiweke, if approved the stadium will not open until 2021, but Miami Beckham United could still play in a temporary venue — such as Hard Rock stadium or nearby Marlins Park — while construction is underway.
MLS' current expansion plans call for 28 teams by 2020. Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota will join the league during the next three years, with Miami taking one step closer on to becoming the 24th team. Teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150m (€133m, £115m) each.
First published www.sportsmanagement.co.uk, written by Kim Megson, 23 May 2017