David Beckham’s group announced today that it is moving forward with plans for a 25,000-seat soccer stadium near Marlins Park and that UM is not involved “at this time” but that it is still talking to UM and open to more discussions in the future.
So why has the UM/Beckham joint stadium not materialized?
Stadium size appears to be the biggest obstacle.
According to a source close to MLS, when MLS and UM have spoken in recent weeks, MLS has made clear that a 25,000-seat stadium works best for MLS.
UM has responded that it must have at least 40,000 seats in any stadium that it plays in. MLS has hasn’t gone as far as to tell UM that 40,000 isn’t do-able but has been non-committal on the topic. And Friday’s announcement reinforces Beckham’s desire for 25,000 seats.
“As I’ve said before, there isn’t a stadium option I would see working for our program that would have less than 40,000 seats,” UM athletic director Blake James said Friday.
Asked his reaction to MLS saying it plans to build a stadium and is moving forward without UM for now, James said: “It’s an exciting day for soccer fans in the South Florida area. I congratulate them on moving forward. With that said, we are in a contract with Sun Life Stadium and are excited to open our season
there on Sept. 5, in many ways in a brand new stadium that will enhance our fan experience.”
Would James have interest in continuing to talk to MLS about a joint MLS/UM football stadium?
“I will always keep all options open,” James said. “My preference is for the University of Miami to have the best home for football and right now that is Sun Life Stadium.”
Though an MLS source said Beckham’s group would like UM to contribute toward construction costs, a source said Beckham’s group has never made a specific financial request to UM or even given UM any specific proposal for a 40,000-seat stadium.
One possibility: Build a 25,000-seat stadium now with the potential to make it 40,000 later.
Even if MLS and UM could resolve the stadium size, UM’s lease with Sun Life is another significant obstacle.
UM has 17 years on the lease, and the Dolphins are of the mindset to ask UM for a financial buyout if they tried to bolt, according to a source with direct knowledge. The Dolphins were not pleased when former president Donna Shalala said she wants to leave Sun Life Stadium.
So even though UM and MLS have stayed in contact in recent weeks, talks have not progressed to the stage of negotiations.
Beckham’s group hopes to be playing here in 2018.
Here was the Beckham Group statement today: "Today's meeting with Mayor Regalado was another positive step toward bringing a world class soccer club to Miami. We're still in the early planning stages and several viable options still exist, but our preferred stadium location is the former Orange Bowl site. David, Marcelo and Simon are thrilled by the initial outpouring of support we've received from our fans and we're excited about sharing our plans with the City, County and community soon."
LAS VEGAS --- When coach Erik Spoelstra said earlier this offseason that the Heat wants to quicken the tempo, that was viewed as good news for small forward James Ennis, because few players on the roster are better suited to playing fast.
But then the Heat added Justise Winslow in the NBA Draft. And then Miami signed swingman Gerald Green, a player with similar athleticism but a far better three-point shooter and a more polished offensive player. And then Ennis began what he calls a “terrible” run in Summer League, one that ends Friday when the Heat plays Sacramento (4:30 p.m., NBA TV) at The Thomas & Mack Center.
With an Aug. 1 deadline looming at which point a large chunk of his $845,059 salary would become guaranteed, Ennis hopes two disappointing weeks in Orlando and Las Vegas don’t offset the promise he showed last season and don't tempt the Heat to move on from him.
“It definitely bothers me,” Ennis said of his summer performance, which includes shooting 31 percent and averaging 11 points in Orlando and 5.0 points in Las Vegas.
“This is the worst summer league I’ve played. I played better my first year coming from college and from overseas. I know I’ve gotten better, but I’m not proving it. That’s what gets me upset. It seems like I haven’t gotten better.
“I have no answers right now. I don’t have a clue [why this is happening]. I’m probably over-thinking things. I’m probably not playing with a clear mind. My mind is cluttered, so it’s taking away [things] I’m good at.”
Knee tendinitis has bothered him this summer, but he’s not using it as an excuse.
“His injury hasn’t helped him,” said Dan Craig, who is coaching the Heat’s Summer League team. “He hasn’t really gotten consistent play. [And] when you're not a guy that has the ball in their hands all the time, you're more of an on-the-move, cutting offensive weapon.”
Ennis went into this offseason hoping to improve his shooting and ball-handling.
But he has shot 15 for 48 overall and 2 for 15 on threes this summer.
"Nothing is falling for me,” he said. “I’m working on my shot everywhere. Left wing is my favorite spot.”
Last season, Ennis shot 32.6 percent on threes (31 for 95). “He’s been really working on his three-point shot,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
As for ball-handling, Ennis has more turnovers (16) than assists (nine) in Summer League.
He said the coaches have been imploring him to “do what I do best –-- energy, run the floor, play with a clear mind. If I can’t play with a clear mind, nothing is going to be positive for me.”
Here’s what can’t be questioned about Ennis, beyond the athleticism: He’s “a great runner,” as Spoelstra said, usually plays with great energy, can be disruptive defensively at times (17 blocks and 25 steals last season), shoots free throws well (79 for 94, 84 percent last season), goes through bursts where he rebounds highly efficiently, fills the lane on fast breaks (20 dunks last season) and has good chemistry with Dragic.
The Heat outscored opponents by 28 points in 191 minutes when Ennis and Dragic were on the floor together last season; that plus/minus ranked 10th-best on the Heat among two-man lineups. (Luol Deng and Chris Andersen were first at plus 70). That dynamic with Dragic could boost Ennis’ case to remain on the team.
“He plays at a fast pace like me,” Ennis said. “He runs. I run. Once he came to the team, that’s why I think I got more transition points. I can run on the side of him. That’s a good plus.”
Because Spoelstra wants to play faster at times, he’s expected to experiment with several small lineups during stretches. Ennis, 6-7, said he could play guard or either forward position in those lineups. He said he played power forward at least twice last season and is prepared to again.
But all that depends on whether Ennis is even on the team. His chances could hinge partly on whether Miami can dump a veteran or two in trades. The Heat has 17 players, plus unsigned second-round pick Josh Richardson, and is trying to trade Mario Chalmers.
Asked whether the roster situation is weighing on him, Ennis said: “Everything enters my mind.”
DOLPHINS, MARLINS, RADIO CHATTER
### Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who won’t necessarily need to play quite as much with the signing of C.J. Mosley, “can be a better NFL player” than college player. That’s the prediction of Mike Stoops, his defensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
Stoops said teams asked him about the criticism that Phillips would go stretches during games without making an impact. “Jordan would be the first to say he probably could have made more plays and needs to make more plays,” Stoops said.
“Getting his body into shape; that's the biggest obstacle for him to overcome. Coming off the back injury last year, we were sensitive to re-injuring it and over-using him.”
Stoops told me he’s bullish on Phillips’ NFL potential because “you don't see guys that can do what Jordan can do athletically [at 325 pounds]. He can be an every down player.”
Stoops said Phillips is very good against the run and “for a guy that big, his pass-rushing skills can develop. He is just scratching the surface. He’s a great kid.”
### With Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon injured, the most visible, conspicuous Marlins person (second row) at Tuesday’s All-Star Game was Laurence Leavy, the North Miami Beach-based attorney know as Marlins Man, because he shows up everywhere wearing his orange Marlins jersey.
Leavy went to sports events 301 days last year and recently attended 21 events in 21 days (including the NBA and NHL finals and Preakness and Belmont) in 11 different cities.
When he sat behind the Warriors bench during the NBA Finals, “a Warriors coach said, ‘Stop watching our plays.’” The Royals (during last year’s World Series) were the only team to ever ask him to remove his Marlins jersey before telling him it was “a big misunderstanding.”
Leavy said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria “once told me, ‘I know it’s not easy for you [wearing that jersey] because I know a lot of people hate the Marlins.”
### The Marlins' starting pitchers coming out of the All-Star game against Philadelphia: Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler and Dan Haren.
### One quick broadcast note: Colin Cowherd is leaving ESPN and ESPN Radio and reportedly might head to Fox.
We're told that moving Dan Le Batard to 10 a.m. is an appealing option that ESPN has discussed internally. Jorge Sedano also warrants consideration for that slot if ESPN and Le Batard decide to leave Dan where he is.
[Friday noon update: SI's Richard Deitsch reports Le Batard is the clubhouse leader for Cowherd's slot].
"We've enjoyed a mutually beneficial run with Colin for over a decade," ESPN president John Skipper said. "He came to national prominence on ESPN with his unique perspective on sports and society. Endings also bring new beginnings, for ESPN and Colin, and we thank him and wish him the best."
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz