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.

Garber, Beckham, to meet with soon-to-be-retired person to discuss joint soccer-football stadium

MLS commissioner Don Garber, former soccer star David Beckham, and University of Miami president Donna Shalala are scheduled to walk into a bar meet later today to discuss a possible joint project to build a stadium for Beckham’s MLS expansion team and UM’s football team. Here’s how it would work, per the Miami Herald:

[Shalala] said she would favor a 40,000- to 44,000-seat venue, which would be larger than the 25,000- to 30,000-seat stadium MLS officials prefer but probably a size the league could live with. Shalala also happens to be a huge soccer fan. She is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors…

UM would be willing to consider contributing toward construction costs, [a] source said.

That’s somewhat promising — if UM and Beckham’s team were both getting use out of the same stadium, they might actually be able to cobble together enough money to build the thing. Not that anyone knows how much money it would take to build the thing. Or where it would go — the leading site is the spot next to Marlins Park that is currently the site of public ballfields, that may not have enough room for a soccer stadium let alone a larger football stadium, and that could require tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks and discounted land. Also, Shalala is retiring as UM president next month, so while it would no doubt be nice for Beckham and Garber to get her blessing, it’s not like she’s going to be around for negotiations. But hey, sometimes you gotta take your momentum where you can find it.

This is the saddest of all stadium renderings

As friend of FoS Andrew Ross just remarked, “Is that a rendering or did they just stack some post-it notes on a printout of Google Maps?”

(For those wondering, it’s a “three-dimensional rendering” supplied by Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez of plans for a new soccer stadium next the the Miami Marlins stadium. Which may or may not be a bad idea, depending on how much the various subsidies team owner David Beckham would be demanding would come to. But man, does Suarez’s office need a budget for a better graphic designer. Or at least some fresh post-it notes.)

Beckham reportedly discusses new Miami MLS site at party, doesn’t cough cake all over his shirt

This slipped past me last week, but apparently David Beckham is sorta kinda maybe willing to consider a site near the Miami Marlins‘ stadium for a new MLS stadium:

Monday night he was sitting next to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a birthday party for fashion magnate Tommy Hilfiger. The two chatted about soccer, and Levine said Beckham gave a tacit thumbs-up to the idea of building a professional soccer stadium next to Marlins Park.

“He mentioned it,” Levine said. “I think he has a sense of openness and willingness to anything.”

Why, that’s positively … hearsay, but I guess it’s more than anybody else has been saying about Beckham’s stalled Miami stadium plans, so sure, let’s call it news!

On the plus side, the Marlins stadium site is already set up for pro sports, with those expensive parking garages the city agreed to build and then almost also had to pay the Marlins’ property taxes on already in place. (It’s also used to hosting major events, as the former site of the Orange Bowl — in fact, there’s so much bad blood about the Marlins stadium deal that everyone involved is now calling it the “Orange Bowl site,” which is kind of hilarious.) But how much would Beckham be expecting the city to contribute to the project? According to the Miami Herald:

  • Beckham wants access to city land without paying market rate rent.
  • Miami-Dade County would likely be asked to take over ownership of the land, to exempt Beckham from paying property taxes.
  • Bruno Barreiro, the county commissioner pushing for a soccer stadium on the Marlins site, wants to create a “special taxing district” around the stadium to pay for expanding monorail service to the site, though the Herald isn’t clear whether this would be a tax surcharge or redirection of existing taxes.

How much in public money would that come to? Hard to say exactly: Those Marlins garages that cost $92 million would have owed $1.2 million a year in property taxes, so if an MLS stadium costs roughly double that, we’re talking maybe $2.4 million a year, which would be maybe $35 million in present value? And how much of a rent discount Beckham would want is completely unknown, so hard to say how much the access to city land would be worth.

That’s assuming, of course, that Beckham is actually considering this plan, and wasn’t just being polite at a party. It looks like the only deal he’s likely to get, though (that or a site in Overtown, which is even less far along), so if he really wants to own a team in Miami, he should probably at least consider it. See, cities do too have some leverage when it comes to stadium demands!

Miami-Dade announces plan for Beckham MLS team to play at FIU stadium, Beckham remains uninterested

Big news on the David Beckham Miami soccer stadium front!

[Miami-Dade County] commissioners voted unanimously to have the administration negotiate with Florida International University for Beckham’s team to play at FIU Stadium, until Beckham chooses a site and builds a permanent stadium.

Wow, this is what people have been suggesting for over a year now as a cheaper solution than building a whole new stadium. It’s just been a matter of waiting for MLS and Beckham’s group to buy into it, and now—

David Beckham’s group issued a statement saying it is not interested, at least not now.

“Our focus is on identifying the location for…the team’s permanent home,” the Beckham statement said. “Careful consideration will be given FIU when we address…a temporary facility.”

Oh. So actually, not so big news.

FIU does seem to be on the official table, anyway, and if nothing else the county negotiating a lease means Beckham will have an option sitting in front of him if he decides to go the NYC F.C. route and launch a team without waiting for a new stadium to be approved first. Which he doesn’t seem all that interested in doing, mind you — clearly he knows that the threat to take his franchise and go home is the only real leverage he has to demand a new stadium — but if he really does have his heart set on a franchise in Miami, at least Miami seems ready to call his bluff.

MLS commissioner says without “the right stadium” in Miami, Beckham will take ball and go home

MLS commissioner Don Garber has for the first time stated openly that David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise depends on getting a new stadium built:

“If we can’t get the right stadium, we can’t go to Miami. We have been challenged to find a site that we believe will be successful,” Garber told Reuters at the SoccerEx Americas Forum in Barbados last week.

“I’m neither optimistic [nor] pessimistic.”

That’s the kind of thing commissioners are expected to do for their owners, of course, and with Beckham’s troubles getting Miami officials (or even Broward County officials) to hand over the waterfront land that he desires, he no doubt appreciates all the leverage that he can get. And anyway, his option to pick up an MLS franchise on the cheap, negotiated as part of his agreement to join MLS as a player years back, doesn’t limit him to Miami, so presumably if his and Garber’s threats don’t shake loose a Miami stadium, he can go to Detroit or Juneau or some other city that has a waterfront and try again there.

Meanwhile, for anyone trying to discern a coherent policy here from Garber on when new soccer-only stadiums are needed, and when sharing with a football team is okay, and when sharing with a baseball team is okay, the answer is: coherent, schmoherent, it’s all about who wants it badly enough and how much money they’re putting up. If Beckham decides tomorrow that he’d be happy to share digs with the Dolphins, I’m sure Garber will declare that this is totally acceptable. It’s actually nice to see MLS growing up and joining the other big leagues that understand there’s only one principle worth standing on: money.

Falcons owner to Beckham: Sharing digs with an NFL team can be fun and rewarding!

And finally, Atlanta Falcons and as-yet-unnamed Atlanta MLS expansion team owner Arthur Blank thinks that David Beckham’s MLS expansion team should share a stadium with the Miami Dolphins:

Here’s what Blank had to say when asked if Beckham’s team should stadium share with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami’s American Football team.

“Yes,” Blank told reporters. “It’s a challenge Beckham has to overcome. It’s important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium.”

Is Blank actually telling Beckham that he should throw in the towel on a new stadium and move into the Dolphins’ old place once it’s finished being renovated? Does he think maybe the Dolphins still want to build a new stadium, and could share with soccer? Has he completely forgotten that the Dolphins are doing renovations, and just assumes that every NFL owner is in the middle of building a new stadium, or will be soon? This is the guy who runs an organization that thinks London is in Spain, so anything is possible.