Clock running down on Miami stadium deal, Beckham tells school board (but it’s his clock)

Whoa, David Beckham’s Miami MLS stadium project has a deadline, according to the Miami New Times!

According to a timeline given to school board members today, the sports icon and his business partners have until just December 5 to have a plan ironed out and presented to Major League Soccer. That doesn’t mean a plan has to be totally approved by then, it just means that a there has to be a plan to approve in the first place.

That’s … okay, hang on a minute. This is what Beckham himself is telling the Miami-Dade school board, which he would presumably only do in order to increase the pressure on them to approve his deal by which the school board would take over ownership of his new stadium in order to get him off the hook for property taxes. There’s no particular reason for MLS to set a December 5 deadline, other than to help Beckham get his stadium deal pushed through — so I’m going to say it’s safe to assume this is a two-minute warning, and not anything real.

The board seems likely to approve its part of the deal anyway, with the bigger holdups being getting private landowners to sell their property, and a public referendum to approve the deal that would be held on March 15. I can’t wait to see the selfies that Beckham poses for with residents to try to win that one.

Day care center wants $30m from Beckham for stadium land, things get even crazier from there

We now know exactly how much the owner of a day care center on the proposed site of David Beckham’s new soccer stadium wants for his land:

According to Miami-Dade County property appraiser records, the property was assessed in 2015 for $368,000. But the owner is demanding a whopping $30 million.

That’s, um, yeah, a lot.

There are two possibilities here: Either the owner of Candy House Day Care (because nothing says “your children’s health is our concern” like “candy house”) doesn’t want to sell and is just putting out a ridiculous price to see what happened, or is hoping to extract a huge payday from Beckham knowing that the stadium can’t be built around him. Or can it?

“They could build around some of those properties,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Friday following a meeting with Tim Leiweke, an equity partner of Miami Beckham United. “That would be Plan B.”

That would also be crazy, given that the site already seems awfully small for a soccer stadium. Though, hey, kids love to play soccer, right? Maybe there’s a solution here that could save Beckham on player salaries too, if you catch my drift.

Beckham stadium czar says landowners could “blow deal up” with high sale price demands

Tim Leiweke, the former AEG president and more recently former Toronto F.C. CEO who is now spearheading David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium campaign, declared yesterday that the owners of private land targeted for a new stadium next to Marlins Park “probably will blow this deal up” with unrealistic demands:

“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 has a fallback plan at another undisclosed site. He also said Miami Beckham United hasn’t ruled out looking to a different city. “We do have a backup,” Leiweke said. “We will not be held hostage.”

Now, this could be a case of some private landholders looking to cash in since they know they have Beckham’s group over a barrel — one daycare operator said the team negotiators told him his price was “reasonable,” while a Beckham attorney told the Miami Herald he’d asked for 30 times market value, so the he-said-she-said here is pretty extreme. Way more likely, though, given that Leiweke isn’t grumbling in public, but rather to the Herald editorial board, is that this is a way to put pressure on the private landholders: If you don’t agree to our price, we’re going to move to another city and everyone will hate you and throw eggs at the kids going to your daycare.

Leiweke has been known to deliver “we’ll take our ball and go home” threats before during AEG’s L.A. NFL stadium negotiations — he got fired from that job before anything came to fruition, though, so hard to say whether he would have gone through with it. My guess is that a couple of weeks from now we’ll see both sides agreeing to meet in the middle, but if the private landowners do want to blow up the deal and stay put, they’re certainly within their rights to do that. Unless Miami tries to use eminent domain to seize their property, which so far everyone involved has said they want to avoid, but there is a long tradition of doing so.


Miami mayor promises MLS stadium “renaissance,” forgetting he said two months ago that wouldn’t happen

Miami city mayor Tomás Regalado, who is currently pushing for the Miami-Dade School Board to buy David Beckham’s planned soccer stadium to exempt it from property taxes — that’s the school board that includes as a member Regalado’s daughter Raquel, who just happens to be running for Miami-Dade county mayor — has touted the project as a boon to its surrounding neighborhood:

That’s odd, and not just because Little Havana already got a whopping huge Marlins baseball stadium at massive public expense, to no notable renaissance effect. As Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times notes, as recently as two months ago Regalado was warning that a soccer stadium wouldn’t do squat for economic development:

He was elected, in part, because he opposed the putrid Marlins Park deal. And just this summer, he told the Herald he’d learned his lesson about promising economic dividends from stadium projects. “I don’t think we should promise economic development for the area if the soccer stadium is built,” Regalado said in August. “I don’t think that should be the sales pitch because it’s not a reality.”

You know, screw all this using time machines to cheat at sports gambling. If I had Doc Brown’s DeLorean, I’d use it to set up a debate between August 2015 Tomás Regalado and October 2015 Tomás Regalado. Sure, it might destroy the universe, but that would be a small price to pay for the entertainment value.

Beckham could seek to duck property taxes by having Miami school board own stadium

The Miami city commission is preparing to vote on David Beckham’s new stadium plan in December, with a public vote to follow on March 15 (the date of Florida’s presidential primary), though the stadium could end up actually being owned by Miami-Dade County or the Miami-Dade School Board, and I’m sorry, what?

[Beckham] and his partners would pay the city a “management fee” of $850,000 a year over an initial term of 60 years, and potentially two additional 20-year terms at the team’s option.

Half of the fee could be paid by a foundation associated with the team’s ownership, and would be used to promote “youth education and athletics,” and to “construct, operate and maintain soccer facilities within the city,” according to the document.

The city, in exchange, would spare Miami Beckham United from paying annual property taxes by deeding 6.5 acres of its land and vacated streets to Miami-Dade County, or — in a new, politically intriguing possibility — the Miami-Dade School Board, both of which have tax-exempt status.

Handing over ownership of a stadium to a public entity in order to duck property taxes is standard operating procedure for U.S. sports teams, of course, and Beckham had already hinted at doing so here. (I’ve previously spitballed $35 million in value from such a property tax break, but that’s a very, very rough guess.) Having the school board own a stadium, though, is certainly thinking outside the box, and is apparently motivated less by tax benefits than by the political calculations:

[Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos] Gimenez reportedly expressed his amazement at the switch and said that he thought the politics involved were pretty clear, since [school board member and 2016 county mayoral candidate Raquel] Regalado’s father, Tomás Regalado, is mayor of the city negotiating with Beckham. … The school system’s entry into the plan would reduce Gimenez to a much more minor role in the soccer talks, while potentially thrusting Regalado into the spotlight as the school board member whose district includes Marlins Park.

So basically, in order to help his daughter win a county election, a city mayor is trying to get the sham ownership of a private soccer stadium transferred from the county to the school board. Not that it really matters from a stadium-subsidy perspective — Beckham would be ducking the same taxes either way — but it’s a pretty remarkable indication of the craziness of the political … oh, wait, I forgot, Florida. Never mind, it’s just par for the course.

Miami to declare Marlins’ stadium “blighted” so it can spend tax money on Beckham MLS stadium next door

The public subsidy details are starting to emerge for David Beckham’s proposed MLS stadium next to the Miami Marlins‘ baseball stadium: On top of about $35 million in property tax breaks, it now looks like Miami-Dade County would be buying the land for Beckham, and doing so by creating a redevelopment agency to use city and county tax dollars to pay for the stadium land and a possible light rail station:

The agency’s boundaries are suggested to be Flagler Street to the South, Northwest 22nd Avenue to the west, and the Miami River to the north and east, though the resolution says the study being sought could expand that area if needed.

Community redevelopment agencies by statute create trust funds that retain 95% of the increase in tax revenues from their area above the taxes that were collected before the agency was born. The agency uses that money to finance or refinance any redevelopment it undertakes. In this case, it would include stadium land and Metromover construction, though it could include more.

This would be tax-increment financing, in other words, with all the attendant problems thereof. And because redevelopment agencies can only be used for areas in need of redevelopment, this would require the area to be declared “slum and blighted” — including the Marlins’ stadium that opened next door just three years ago in the last attempt at revitalization. This is not going to help get people to Marlins’ games.

MLS commissioner decides “intrigued” is properly enthusiastic yet noncommittal word for St. Paul stadium

Sometimes I like to picture the offices of sports league commissioners, and alongside what I assume are the usual office accoutrements (a money printing press, the mounted heads of city officials and labor lawyers defeated in battle), I figure there must be a hefty thesaurus. Why? For times when it’s the job of a commissioner to express just enough enthusiasm for a stadium project to keep local boosters on the hook, but not so much that you’re actually committing to anything. Like, here’s MLS commissioner Don Garber, talking to the Associated Press last week about a new stadium for Minnesota United:

“We’ve now become intrigued by a possibility of having a stadium be in St. Paul,” Garber said.

Intrigued. You have to figure Garber thought, “‘Excited’? No, that’s way too positive. ‘Interested’? Too blah. Wait, ‘intrigued’! That has the perfect blend of ‘I’m not promising anything, but keep talking.’ Yeah, that’ll do nicely, and won’t hamstring me if I decide after all that the team should play in Minneapolis or Sacramento or Kuala Lumpur.”

Garber also said of David Beckham’s proposed Miami MLS stadium, “We believe Miami will be a great MLS market and we look forward to bringing the whole project across the finish line.” Which is pretty much a long-winded way of saying “intrigued,” but it’s bad form to repeat yourself, so cut the man some slack.

None of this actually means anything in terms of where either the Minnesota or Miami teams will end up playing, in case you were wondering. For that, await some real news involving actual money.

Miami’s deal with Marlins gives Loria right to dictate terms for Beckham’s soccer stadium

So it turns out there are some problems with the Miami soccer stadium site next to Marlins Park, beyond any possible need for public subsidies and evicting old people from their homes. And, surprise, surprise, these stem from the horrible Marlins stadium deal, which keeps on being horrible. As uncovered this week by Miami Today’s Michael Lewis:

  • A soccer team in a stadium next door to the Marlins facility wouldn’t be allowed to sell naming rights until the Marlins had done so first. And Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hasn’t sold naming rights to his building yet because it is a monument to waste with a hideous sculpture and gets rain delays despite a costly retractable roof.
  • If allowed to sell naming rights, the soccer team wouldn’t be allowed to conflict with the Marlins’ sponsor — so, no two competing banks or airlines or what have you.
  • “No soccer exterior ads may conflict with a major Marlins sponsor. But if soccer sells an exterior ad that doesn’t conflict, the Marlins can then sign a conflicting sponsor and the soccer sponsor can’t renew.”
  • Neither soccer games nor soccer stadium construction can take place before, during, or after Marlins games, and the Marlins can set their own schedule as they see fit. And can change it at will, and the soccer team has to lump it.

Clearly, somebody in the Marlins’ lease-writing division was thinking ahead to having a soccer team as a neighbor, and the city and county lease negotiators decided to sign off on whatever the baseball team wanted. Which should come as no surprise, since it’s pretty much what they did with the entire stadium deal, but it’s going to create some headaches for David Beckham’s stadium plans. One can only hope that Miami isn’t asked to kick in public money to make up for some of these obstacles, but I wouldn’t hope too hard, given Miami’s track record here.

Beckham tells Miami mayor he’s ready to talk about evicting people to make way for MLS stadium

David Beckham inched closer to building an MLS stadium next to Marlins Park yesterday, he and his co-owner sending a letter to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado yesterday stating definitively that they wanted to “express our formal interest” in the site:

We have done a considerable amount of work to understand the requirements of the Site and its potential as the home of our Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. While there is still work to be done, including completing the land assembly, we firmly believe that we can build a world-class stadium at the Site.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a commitment, it’s as much as you’re going to get from a group of sports owners. (Or in this case, conditional expansion sports team would-be owners.) Essentially, Beckham & Co. are saying “Let’s talk about this, MLS says it’ll do,” while leaving plenty of room to back away if things go wrong.

But what could go wrong? They have the site picked out, so all they need to do is figure out funding details and what to do about the buildings currently occupying the — whuh-oh:

[Adelfa] Lopez at 70 years old will likely be forced to move, after spending almost four decades in her home next to the former Orange Bowl site.

“For us it’s an inconvenience. We have to look for a house that accommodates the animals, we have dogs and cats,” she said. “Whatever it is, it is, we don’t have nothing to say about it.”

Okay, so “completing the land assembly” may be more contentious than it at first sounded. As always, you want to keep your eye on these things well after the mayor and the team owner agree on what to sit down and talk about, since that’s when all the important stuff gets worked out. Miami news outlets, you’re with me on this, right?

Beckham agrees to talk with Miami about site next to Marlins, public subsidies still TBD

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.