Even as they race to meet a swift-approaching deadline to purchase six private properties and negotiate a stadium agreement with two local governments, David Beckham and his partners are bracing for the possibility -- even likelihood -- that a deal to build a soccer stadium in Miami will fall apart.
In an unusually blunt interview with the Miami Herald Editorial Board, Tim Leiweke, Miami Beckham United’s point man on stadium negotiations in Miami, said Thursday that the partnership continues to make progress with the city of Miami to purchase city land across the street from Marlins Park and transfer it to the Miami-Dade School Board. But he said parallel negotiations to purchase six private parcels on the proposed stadium footprint have stalled as land owners haggle for unreasonable prices.
“They know what we’re doing and unfortunately they’ve let that create an absolutely unrealistic conversation. They can absolutely blow this deal up, and they probably will blow this deal up,” he said. “We’re willing to overpay. We just don’t want to be the stupidest guys on the face of the earth.”
If the negotiations fail, Leiweke said Beckham’s group -- which has already whiffed on stadium sites at PortMiami and next to the AmericanAirlines Arena -- has yet another fallback plan at an undisclosed site. He faulted Miami Beckham United mostly for the team's problems, saying "this has not been the smartest negotiation I've been a part of."
Leiweke’s comments come just weeks ahead of a Major League Soccer board of governors meeting scheduled for the first weekend in December. Leiweke said Miami Beckham United will be expected to appear with a deal in place, pending a binding voter referendum in the city. If they don’t have a set agreement and all six properties purchased, he said it’s hard to predict what will happen with Beckham’s option to buy a new MLS franchise.
“If we don’t have a deal by that MLS board meeting it’s up to the commissioner and the board to decide what happens to this option. But I am worried. It’s been a long time since this has been discussed and we’ve been unable to come to them with a viable plan that works,” he said. “If at the end of the day, whether it be the politics or the greed of the situation we’re facing makes this unable to happen ... then I’ll let the commissioner decide. But I don’t like those odds and it makes me very nervous about MLS in Miami.”