SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
David Beckham’s group is exploring the feasibility of building a soccer stadium that would be large enough to accommodate the University of Miami football team, and UM would have interest if the stadium meets the school’s requirements and if the Hurricanes can somehow escape their long Sun Life Stadium lease, according to sources on both sides.
Beckham’s group and UM have had preliminary discussions, but the Beckham camp and MLS likely need a couple of months to determine whether it’s realistic.
UM has told the Beckham camp that it needs a stadium with at least 40,000 seats to accommodate Hurricanes games; Beckham’s group initially has spoken of having 25,000 seats. UM also would need the stadium to have sufficient parking, large enough locker-rooms and enough suites.
Though Beckham likes the idea, there are significant obstacles that could torpedo a UM/MLS shared facility. Perhaps the biggest: UM would need to negotiate to escape the 18 remaining years on its lease with Sun Life Stadium. It’s unclear how much Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross would seek financially to permit UM to do that, or if he would allow it at all. UM has no idea because the matter has never been broached.
Another potential obstacle: Beckham must find a site big enough to accommodate a 40,000-seat stadium and the expected traffic. Also, if the site that’s determined to be best and most realistic for soccer isn’t suitable for college football, then the idea of UM playing there likely would be tabled.
“We’re interested enough in the potential of this to explore the possibility,” an MLS source said. And UM is very interested in hearing what Beckham’s group determines, according to a UM official.
UM isn’t unhappy at Sun Life but would be intrigued by the possibility of playing in a more cozy facility that’s closer to campus. UM is not interested in financing the stadium; that has not been discussed.
Beckham’s incentive to build a larger stadium to lure UM? Not only would his facility have more seats to accommodate larger soccer crowds, but Beckham would have a rent-paying marquee tenant playing there.
Beckham has said the stadium construction will be privately financed, but he hired lobbyists to seek a state sales tax rebate to help with costs.
Beckham's group and the city aren't sure how much the stadium will cost, and that will hinge partly on capacity. But costs of recent new MLS stadiums or planned ones have varied widely, from $84 million for the proposed 18,000-seat stadium in Orlando, to $95 million for a 22,000-seat facility in Houston, to $200 million for a 25,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium in Kansas City.
Among the sites under consideration, the one that might be best suited to accommodate a 40,000-seat stadium is the 36-acre PortMiami location, according to a Miami-Dade County official. But Beckham’s group hasn’t determined if that site is realistic for college football.
One concern is that many cruise ships depart in the afternoon, when UM plays many of its games. Conversely, most or all MLS games will be at night. Building a stadium on the PortMiami site would need county approval.
A proposed site west of Marlins Park likely would not be large enough to accommodate a 40,000 capacity, according to a county official.
A few county officials are aware of the possibility of UM sharing a stadium with MLS, but they are not involved in those discussions and haven’t been updated on that.
“Capacity hasn’t come up,” a county official said. “We’re still very early in the process. It’s an interesting idea.”
UM wants no fewer than 40,000 seats because it has about 30,000 season-ticket holders and allots 6000 seats for students and another 4000 to sell to the visiting team.
UM athletic director Blake James declined to comment. A spokesman for Beckham’s group declined to discuss the likelihood of building a stadium to accommodate UM, saying the group’s focus is “on identifying the right site for a soccer stadium.”
### Marlins Park remains the front-runner to host the Miami MLS team for a year while the proposed stadium is being built. But Marlins Park has been given no assurances.
### Asked if he will be involved in Beckham's group, LeBron James said Friday: "Right now we're not, but it's still open."
Don Shula --- who will join Tony Dungy, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin on a Dolphins committee that will formulate a locker-room code of conduct --- says Dolphins veterans should no longer be permitted to make rookies pay for a $30,000 dinner at Prime 112, as they did with defensive rookies last season.
"That's ridiculous," Shula said. "It's not right. Why should they have to do that? Our rookie hazing was just playful stuff, but I don't remember any incident that was uncomfortable or out of line. This is carrying it too far. Everybody has to get back to common sense and don't do anything that causes any longterm harm or ill feelings."
### Though Rams offensive tackle Jake Long wasn’t on the Dolphins last season and wasn’t identified by name in Ted Wells’ report, a Dolphins player said it was disappointing Long never told Richie Incognito to stop acting the way he did toward Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner and others, because Incognito looked up to Long and might have taken it to heart. But at least Long didn’t harass Martin, unlike Mike Pouncey.
### Two Dolphins people dispute a CBS report that Joe Philbin will have a shorter leash on Ryan Tannehill and might play Matt Moore. But the Dolphins feel strongly that Tannehill must improve his chemistry with Mike Wallace. One Dolphins official said Tannehill can throw a ball anticipating where Brian Hartline will be, but cannot consistently with Wallace.
### Some analysts favor Indiana against Miami, such as Charles Barkley (who said the Pacers big men "own" the Heat), Tim Legler and P.J. Carlesimo.
But several lean toward the Heat advancing to a fourth consecutive Finals, including TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Grant Hill (because "they've been there before"). NBA TV's Greg Anthony said: "Miami can get to a level where the Pacers are defensively. We don't know yet if the Pacers can get to the level offensively that Miami has shown this year."
And TNT's Steve Kerr, who predicted last summer Miami wouldn't emerge from the East, said off air: "I like the Heat's chances of getting to the Finals better than I did during the summer despite [their nine losses to losing teams]. To win a championship, they need to win only two difficult series. The first two will be a cakewalk. The Pacers' turnovers concern me."
### This week’s NFL Combine will be important for UM's Seantrel Henderson after drawing mixed reviews at the Senior Bowl.
"Great in practice, awful in interviews," said one NFL scout who met with him at the Senior Bowl. "He couldn't draw up formations. He just doesn't get it. Not very alert or aware. But he did very well in one-on-one drills and someone will take a shot at him in the second or third round."
### Please see the last post for 10 notes from Marlins Media Day on Saturday, as well as Saturday fallout over the Dolphins' locker-room scandal.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz