A Miami-Dade County commissioner has become the first elected official in the county or city to formally oppose David Beckham's bid to build a Major League Soccer stadium on the downtown Miami waterfront.
Xavier Suarez does not represent the district where the proposed 20,000-seat stadium would go. But he is a former Miami mayor whose son now sits on the city commission. Beckham's representatives have been in now-stalled talks with the city over the site, which is now a deep-water basin along Biscayne Boulevard known as the Florida East Coast Railway slip. County commissioners would eventually have to weigh in on a deal if it were to involve a land swap with the city.
"After discussions with Miami officials (past and present), residents of the area and a host of planner and activists, I have concluded that the FEC slip is not a desirable site for the stadium," Suarez said in a statement Friday. The stadium wouldn't add anything to the waterfront but "another concrete wall" and could create parking and traffic congestion, he said.
Instead, Suarez endorsed a Beckham stadium next to Marlins Park in Little Havana -- a location Beckham's business partner, Simon Fuller, has derided as "spiritually tainted" by the unpopular public financing deal for the Miami Marlins.
Suarez's office even included a rendering of a possible Little Havana soccer stadium. The rendering, Suarez said, was provided to him by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who has slammed the FEC slip stadium proposal. Diaz could not be immediately reached for comment.
Read Suarez's full statement after the jump.
I do this because I want Major League Soccer to come to Miami. I recognize that it is a rare occurrence when a former world-class player and still world-class personality spends substantial money to buy a sports franchise with the implicit condition that the franchise be located in Miami. David Beckham is a class act and he belongs in our world-class city.
More importantly, soccer is the world's favorite pastime and Miami is the world's favorite city.
From day one, I have tried my hardest to make each site that is proposed work for the citizens of my county. I struggled to understand the logic of a stadium in the port; when that idea was voted down by the county commission, I struggled to understand the logic of a waterfront venue, even if it meant going back on two decades of planning in which Miami officials, following my own legacy (1985-93) endeavored to keep the FEC Slip as open space, with waterfront access for all Miamians.
After discussions with Miami officials (past and present), residents of the area and a host of planners and activists, I have concluded that the FEC slip is not a desirable site for the stadium. As a venue for sports or entertainment, it adds nothing to the existing AAA arena - except another concrete wall that visually separates pedestrians and motorists from the waterfront. I also worry about parking and the kinds of traffic nightmares that would have to be endured by the burgeoning downtown community of residents, already numbering in the range of 15,000.
Also of importance is the fact that the wishes and preferences of the most affected residential and business community are not being taken into account. (In political philosophy, that consideration is referred to as the ("principle of subsidiarity.") That is not the way to start off with a new sports franchise.
Twice now, the proponents of this franchise made the mistake of predetermining one chosen location. That is not how basketball and baseball franchises were obtained. To the contrary, it was by open, public discussion of a handful of possible sites.
So far, scant attention has been paid to a site that has every desirable element imaginable. It is the area formerly known as the Orange Bowl, in the heart of Little Havana. It has substantial parking; access from four corners; nearness to rapid transit. Most importantly it is a site that can accommodate other uses, without doing harm to the residential community.
A stadium that can accommodate up to 40,000 people can be used for Hurricane football. It can also be a venue for open-air concerts and, in conjunction with the Marlins Stadium, for international competition, requiring more than one facility to be in use simultaneously.
I should add that I have no objection if this location, too, is submitted to a referendum. Let the people decide. And let us do it in a way that is as transparent and consultative as possible. Miamians have for too long been consulted after-the-fact in this matter of sports franchises. It is time to be consulted from day one.