Building a Miami MLS stadium on a too-small underwater site turns out not to be as easy as you’d think

When Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made his surprise announcement last week that he’d ask David Beckham’s MLS expansion franchise group to move their stadium plans from PortMiami to a deep-water boat slip that would need to be filled in because it’s currently all water, it sounded easier said than done. And according to the Miami Herald, you bet it is:

There are new costs to weigh, environmental and building permits from federal, state and local agencies to request — and not one, but two municipal governments to persuade.

Beyond those logistical and political considerations is a broader question for elected leaders in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami. Do they want to turn over the last remaining piece of public, open waterfront along Biscayne Boulevard to a private entity to build an imposing structure?

“You’re basically giving away public land,” said Laura Reynolds, the Tropical Audubon Society executive director, who has repeatedly fought attempts to fill the water basin over the years. She sent the county a letter Friday opposing it as a stadium site.

The estimated cost of filling in just three-quarters of the slip has previously been estimated at $17 million, the city would have to repay the Florida Inland Navigation District $3 million it received contingent on leaving the basin public for 25 years, and Miami commissioners passed a resolution in 2011 opposing any “actions or discussions” by the county to fill in the slip. Plus, presumably, you’d need to install a ton of infrastructure to support a soccer stadium on what’s now ocean water. And, let’s see, what else?

To fit a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, the building would have to encroach on the city-owned Museum Park next door. On two satellite images, county staff drew the outline of a nine-acre square — roughly the shape needed to construct a stadium — over the property. One had the square closer to the water; the other, closer to the boulevard, the location Gimenez said he prefers.

Museum Park is the former Bicentennial Park that the city and county paid millions to renovate as the home of the recently inaugurated Pérez Art Museum Miami and the under-construction Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. The zoning there doesn’t allow stadiums, either.

Now we see why Gimenez and Beckham targeted PortMiami first, anyway. Next up: Finding out whether park advocates and the Audobon Society have as much pull as Royal Caribbean cruises.

9 comments on “Building a Miami MLS stadium on a too-small underwater site turns out not to be as easy as you’d think

  1. At first blush this seems like a win for the city. A private entity pays to fill in an unused boat slip and pays fair market rent for the property for a privately funded stadium.

  2. Ryan: Where do you see Beckham saying he’d pay for filling in the boat slip, plus fair market rent on the slip site?

  3. Well Beckham did commit to 50mil in prep work at portmiami and I remember 2mil a year rent offer. What’s being collected currently on that skip.

  4. Right, I haven’t seen him say that offer stands on the new site, though. If he does, great, but we don’t know that yet.

  5. You got a point, I can see him wanting to pay as little rent as possible, but didn’t mayor say Beckham would have to fill the boat slip?

  6. Which mayor, Gimenez? If he did, I haven’t been able to find it. (I looked some last night.)

  7. Yes that’s the mayor, there seems to be many Mayors down there. Also said the team would have to reimburse the city for the 12mil already spent to upgrade the slip. Miami Herald.

  8. Permits? Public land? Giving away the waterfront and parkland? Public stadium cash?

    Enough with the hand-wringing, it’s all easy. As Jim Cramer likes to say, “Buy buy buy…. some local pols.”

    Nothing succeeds like grease, baby! Billionaire grease, mmmm, yup.

  9. There’s a stadium already at FIU, a lot closer to the fans than downtown.
    Unlike most cities, Miami’s downtown is not centrally located, but on the (East) water edge, the population mostly West (makes for horrible traffic).
    If they only need 9 acres they can buy and knock down existing construction.