Stop the presses! Thirteen months after the city of Miami told David Beckham it wouldn’t give him prime waterfront land for a new stadium for his expansion MLS team, the two sides have come to an agreement on a new site! Sort of:
One of Beckham’s partners, Marcelo Claure, met with Miami mayor Tomas Regalado on Friday in what both sides hope will lead to a privately-funded soccer stadium located just west of Marlins Park.
Okay, sure, Beckham had indicated that he was open to a Marlins Park site before. But this time there was an actual meeting! Well, a Skype chat. And a Beckham press release said “several viable options still exist, but our preferred stadium location is the former Orange Bowl site,” so, progress!
As for how that “privately-funded” would work (btw, South Florida Sun Sentinel, you don’t need a hyphen after an adverb there), there’s previously been talk of Beckham getting free land and a property tax exemption, and it sure sounds like that’s still on the table: Regalado told the Miami Herald he’s not looking for “traditional” ground rent (i.e., actual money) but rather “’community benefits’ that could include special programs for youth, free tickets for residents and other non-monetary offers.” And Miami-Dade County could be asked to own the stadium and lease it to Beckham (again, no actual price put on this) so that the team wouldn’t have to pay property taxes.
All told, it wouldn’t be a hugely expensive deal for Miami — I previously estimated the property tax exemption as being worth around $35 million, though free land would add a bunch to that as well — but it would still be a significant subsidy, possibly more than what Minnesota United has been trying and failing to get out of Minneapolis. And while there isn’t a whole lot on the site now, there are some public ballfields, a private apartment complex, and some commercial buildings, which means likely eminent domain proceedings (which Beckham’s group indicated it will repay the city for, at least). Add in that it would be a tight squeeze at best to fit a soccer stadium on the site, and it’s probably going to take a bunch more Skype meetings to figure out exactly what’s being planned here.
The lesson here: When newspaper reports say there’s a “deal,” it doesn’t so much mean there’s a deal as that there are elected officials and developers trying to create momentum for a deal. I’m not sure what it’ll take to get headline writers start saying “plan” or something similar instead, but if chiding them in the last paragraph of blog entries is the trick, I’m all over it.