David Beckham's plan to build a soccer stadium across from Marlins Park isn't dead yet. But it's on life support, and it may be only a matter of time before someone pulls the plug.
On Monday, with an important Major League Soccer Board of Governors meeting just days away, Miami Beckham United acknowledged that negotiations to buy six private properties standing in the footprint of the proposed Little Havana stadium continue to flounder. The Beckham group has a deal outlined to purchase a majority of the stadium site owned by the city of Miami, but can't build unless it also purchases several apartment buildings, duplexes and a daycare.
Those negotiations have so far been unproductive at best going back to the summer. And that's a problem, considering Beckham's investors have warned publicly that if they appear before the MLS board on Dec. 5 without having secured those properties --or maybe a different stadium site -- Beckham's option to purchase an MLS franchise could be in jeopardy.
"While Miami Beckham United is still hopeful we can secure the necessary private properties adjacent to the Marlins Park site, we are faced with the fact that some owners are not interested in selling or are seeking completely unreasonable prices," Beckham spokesman Tadd Schwartz said in a statement issued Monday. "Fortunately, we have been receiving interest from a number of private land owners with sites across Miami-Dade County and we are now in the process of evaluating those alternatives. David [and partners] Marcelo [Claure], Simon [Fuller] and Tim [Leiweke] appreciate the strong support of our fans and we are doing everything in our power to make our dream of an MLS club in Miami a reality.”
Schwartz issued the statement hours after a Monday morning report by NBC 6 that sources said the team had abandoned plans to build in Little Havana. That report and another by WPLG 10 stated the city of Miami had pulled a Dec. 10 vote on a stadium deal and March voter referendum, attributing that information to Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez.
Mayor Tomas Regalado, Clerk Todd Hannon and City Manager Daniel Alfonso, however, disputed that assertion, saying that as of late Monday a soccer item remained on the Dec. 10 agenda. Regalado's administration continues to hold out increasingly faint hope that the team can reach an 11th hour deal to buy the private properties, at which point the city commission would consider selling its land to the team and scheduling a March voter referendum on soccer.
"Of course it's not true," Regalado said Monday when asked if the city had given up on building a soccer stadium in Little Havana. "I don't know who started all this shit."
It's not like the increasingly likely death of the Little Havana soccer stadium has come out of the blue. The Miami Herald reported last week that the Miami-Dade School Board would not vote as expected on a soccer stadium Dec. 2, that some property owners had yet to be contacted by the team, and that the team was millions apart in price from the owners who run a daycare and apartment buildings. In that report, Alfonso explained that the city had a soccer item placed on the Dec. 10 agenda, but that it was more than likely to be withdrawn barring a last-minute deal between the team and property owners.
Reached late Monday, Suarez explained the miscommunication like this: "I think the mix-up was the [city] manager told me last week that he was probably going to leave [the soccer item] on the agenda but it was likely to be withdrawn. The mayor told me last week, 'I believe the Beckham deal is dead.' Those were his words. So when [reporters] asked me is this thing on the agenda, I said my understanding is it's going to be withdrawn."
Suarez said that with so little time left, it doesn't seem to matter whether the item is withdrawn today or Dec. 10.
"I think the bottom line is the mayor is scrambling at this point, and that it appears pretty evident to the world that it appears to be dead," he said. "He's more worried about the semantics. I just don't understand what we're arguing about."
If the Little Havana stadium deal implodes, the political fallout will be intriguing. Regalado championed the site this summer when Beckham committed to Little Havana after two failed bids to build on the water. He also appeared to double-down when the Miami-Dade School Board swooped in to replace Miami-Dade County as a potential stadium landlord, considering that his daughter, School Board Member Raquel Regalado, is campaigning against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Regalado said he doesn't believe the deal is dead. He still thinks Beckham may walk away from the MLS Board meeting with a favorable result for the Little Havana site.
"He may have extension," he said. "He may even have agreement."