Business partners of soccer icon David Beckham discussed his plan to build a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium in Miami’s Overtown at a public meeting with local residents Wednesday evening, including the promised job impacts.
Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, said that after a delay of about a year and a half, Beckham’s group has raised all the money for the stadium project, which he said would exceed half a billion dollars. He promised that the venture would be completely funded by private dollars, not taxpayer funds, and it would pay its full share of taxes. There would also be certain community benefits and job training programs that would be put into writing, Leiweke said.
The team would commit to providing at least 50 full-time jobs at the stadium, with at least 26 of them paying living wages. Those jobs must be created within five years and be maintained for 10 years.
The venture would also pledge to work with community organizations and Miami-Dade Public Schools to train and hire people from the neighborhood. The team would work with youth soccer clubs as well to develop future players.
“The stadium will employ our community,” Leiweke said. “For Overtown, this will be an economic engine.”
If the county approves a land sale to Beckham United in June and the franchise is awarded by Major League Soccer (MLS), the site entitlement process could take a year and include many public hearings, Leiweke said. Construction would take about 18 months.
If all goes well, Beckham United could play in the stadium starting in 2021, which would be in time for World Cup matches should the United States play host, Leiweke said.
The stadium would host matches 30 to 40 nights a year, he added.
Beckham United has proposed building the stadium without parking spaces. Its proposed development agreement would provide 2,000 parking spaces in downtown Miami garages with shuttle service to the stadium. Leiweke is counting on most fans to walk to the stadium. He said it’s a six-minute walk west — underneath Interstate 95 — from the Brightline passenger rail station that’s under construction. The Culmer Metrorail station is just north of the stadium site.
Leiweke said the team also plans to utilize the city trolleys and the Miami River, both water taxis and the river walk pedestrian path, to bring fans to the stadium.
The prospect of heavy game day traffic and fans parking on lawns has some residents of Overtown and the adjacent Spring Garden neighborhood worried. Some of them voiced concerns that the traffic would overwhelm their streets on game days.
“Plopping a 25,000-seat stadium in the middle of two historic neighborhoods is an insult to the two neighborhoods,” said Ernie Martin, president of the Spring Garden Civic Association.
Leiweke said Beckham United would pay for both traffic mitigation and security on game day. That would include enforcement of parking rules in Spring Garden, he said.
In March 2016, Beckham United paid a combined $18.95 million in two deals for six acres at 650 N.W. 8th Street. It needs to acquire a 2.8-acre site at 678 N.W. 7th Street from the county’s water and sewer department to assemble all the land for the stadium.
“This is the last opportunity in a long time for Miami to have MLS,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “They need to demonstrate to the league that they can get this done.”
Leiweke said the $9.02 million price of the land was based on the fair market value of two county-ordered appraisals. He noted that the county site has significant contamination and Beckham United will be required to clean it up and remove some of the old soil.
The stadium will be designed by Populous, the same firm that designed the MLS stadium in Orlando, Leiweke said.
“We will be better than Orlando and we throw that challenge down now,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke said it would be a green stadium with a LEED-certified design to limit energy use, water consumption and CO2 emissions.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents the neighborhood, said she felt all of the concerns she and members of the community raised about the stadium during the initial meeting in 2015 were addressed in the proposed property sale agreement. The community benefits will be in place before the land is sold, she said.
In addition to the 50 jobs and the 2,000 off-site parking spaces, the land deal would also require Beckham United to develop job training programs, partner with the Overtown Youth Coalition, partner with the school board on education and athletics, provide Spring Garden neighborhood, ensure the construction project hires contractors under the county’s small and minority-owned business programs, host job fairs in the neighborhoods and hire a certain percentage of local contractors for the construction.
The county deal would also require the team to spend at least $175 million building the stadium.
G. Eric Knowles, CEO of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce and formerly an executive with the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, said the 50 full-time jobs figure is an impressive commitment given the size of the stadium proposed by Beckham United. He would like to see many of the minorities hired for these positions be given an opportunity to train for executive positions.
Leiweke told him they would have that opportunity, and the team also plans to hire hundreds of interns over the years.
“This is about creating a positive economic impact for Overtown. That is our first priority,” Leiweke said.