#360USA: Beckham struggling to achieve his MLS plans in Miami

Steve Brenner 08:47 30/11/2015
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Beckham with MLS commissioner Don Garber (l).

David Beckham has faced many challenges in his glittering career. Yet the frustrating inability to find a home for his MLS franchise in Miami must be close to sending the former Manchester United and England midfielder into a permanent state of meltdown.

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Almost two years of travelling down dead ends has left his plans to bring professional soccer to South Florida near breaking point. MLS commissioner Don Garber is planning to meet with Beckham and his team this weekend.

Unless a stadium plan is in place, there will be a considerable problems with his $25 million investment. They will certainly sit down with the League’s board of governors with a serious amount of trepidation.

Plans to build a stadium near the downtown home of the Miami Heat, as well as a proposal to start construction close to the city port, thereby tapping into untold tourist and local revenues, barely got off the ground. But the latest setback in Little Havana appears the most irritating of them all.

A spot next to where the Miami Marlins baseball team continue to disappoint a fan base still fuming at despot owner Jefrrey Loria’s hugely expensive botched attempts of making a run for MLB titles had been targeted.

Local feeling, both from government officials and the common man, towards the Marlins and how the taxpayer have been ultimately forced to pick up a huge $200m bill for an arena which is barely ever at capacity have refused to dissipate. It’s destroying Beckham’s dream.

Huge political and local scepticism continues to rage. Yet the plan which had been proposed certainly made sense. The city of Miami own most of the land but those in power agreed to transfer it to the Miami-Dade School Board ensuring Beckham would avoid paying property taxes. There are no huge oppositions to that particular idea – the Heat have struck a similar deal at the American Airlines arena and talks with the school system and city have gone smoothly.

Beckham’s team has promised to pay for the real estate while pumping around $1m into the schools. Future tie-ins would surely follow. This week however came a bombshell. A vote by the school authority was postponed. Another delay. Another nail in the coffin.

“I think we are out of time,” said Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Close Beckham aide Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which runs the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, Toronto Raptors of the NBA and Toronto FC of MLS who was brought in to help smooth paths, immediately went on the offensive.

“I think we have found a site,” Leiweke said. “It’s probably different than what people think we’re doing, but we’re going to know in the next several days.”

A new site in nearby Overtown has been mentioned but considering cranes were set on fire there last year by residents furious at being shut out of local projects which were supposed to generate new employment opportunities, no-one is holding their breath.

The plans for Little Havana, which were formulated in July, had been mostly welcomed by the schools yet political opposition remained, for the most part, fierce and obstructive.

New problems, however, have emerged throwing serious spanners in the works. A number of property and small business owners in the vicinity of Marlins Park have dug their heels in demanding big money for their land.

An offer of $6m for three apartment buildings worth around $600,000 was rejected. They wanted $18m. While such aggressive negotiation is understandable, claims that Miami Beckham United (MBU) – the ownership group of the new franchise – have failed to make contact with some of the people affected has left many bemused.

Strong resistance from a local daycare owner in particular has sent the plans scuttling back to square one. Candy House is worth $367,000 with MBU valuing it at $800,000.

Owner Rene Diaz wants a staggering $30m. Of course, Beckham has money. Yet he will not be reckless. In the current climate, business owners like Diaz cannot be blamed for trying to milk MBU for as much as possible. After all, the combined wealth of Beckham and principal backer Marcelo Claure alone would stretch close to $1 billion.

The matter needs to be resolved. MLS would receive an almighty profile boost with the return of the Beckham circus. Whether it materialises remains to be seen though one thing is certain – this is one hell of a battle even Goldenballs himself could find hard to emerge victorious from.

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