David Beckham Meets With Florida Gov. Rick Scott Lobbying for New Stadium for Miami MLS Project
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David Beckham's front-office ambitions continue to grow with the retired superstar having met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott to discuss his desired location to build a facility for his new Miami Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team as rumors circulate of a possible takeover of his former Manchester United FC club.
The proposed soccer-specific stadium would sit next to AmericanAirlines Arena - home of the Miami Heat - located in the city's waterfront with a view of downtown Miami and a capacity to hold 25,000 fans. Planners hope the facility will be completed in time for the start of the 2016 MLS season.
"It will create an unparalleled experience in soccer in the United States, perhaps an unparalleled experience anywhere in the world," said Beckham's real estate advisor John Alschuler during Monday's press conference. "The port of Miami is the right place because it will create a great stadium, it will energize downtown, it will create jobs and economic value."
Beckham met with Gov. Scott and State Senate President Andy Gardiner, who represents the Orlando area where MLS recently promoted the USL-Pro League's Orlando City Soccer Lions (owned by Flávio Augusto da Silva, founder of the Wise Up ESL program). Both American soccer clubs are seeking public funding to help build soccer-specific facilities in their respective Florida cities, with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer saying that both projects are "locked at the hip."
The Orlando and Miami MLS franchises are looking to qualify for tax subsidies that the state provides for the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) teams that call Florida home. The former Manchester United FC, Real Madrid CF, Paris Saint-Germain and Los Angeles Galaxy star has hired lobbyists looking for a package deal of $2 million per year for the facility.
"We want to be treated like every other franchise," said Beckham during the press conference. "We're not asking for anything more or anything less."
Beckham and his investors, including American Idol creator Simon Fuller and CEO of Brightstar Corporation Marcelo Claure (who also owns Bolivar, one Bolivia's top clubs), may have to overcome a major obstacle, with Florida taxpayers feeling burned by their local sports teams in partnerships that amounted to sports welfare deals, according to filmaker Billy Corben - director of the documentaries Cocaine Cowboys as well as ESPN's 30 For 30, The U and Broke.
While Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez is supportive of MLS and Beckham, the most recent collaboration between Florida elected officials and a local sport team was the deal that helped build Marlins Park and has taxpayers feeling squeamish about investing public money into a new sports venue considering the fiasco with the Miami Marlins.
Voters are still angry that lawmakers used state taxes to pay for three-quarters of the Marlins' new stadium, with owner Jeffrey Loria trading the teams' top players within a year of moving into the new facility. The Dolphins have found it difficult to get tax support for their proposed $400 million in renovations for Sun Life Stadium, which includes the construction of a canopy to cover fans from rain and sun, new seats, new video boards, and improved concourses, as a result of the backlash against the Marlins - something Beckham may have to keep in mind when he considers his planning for a soccer-specific stadium.
"I don't blame Jeffrey Loria, [Miami Heat owner Micky] Arison, or Stephen Ross. They're good businessmen. They're trying to get the best deal for themselves," says Corben, a lifelong Florida native, to LatinoPost. "What I do begrudge are politicians who are suppose to negotiate a deal on behalf of their constituency. The politicians are in over their heads negotiating these deals with sophisticated businessmen. It's the politicians who are ill-equipped and outgunned in these negotiations."
Beckham's sports executive aspirations have also been linked to a possible purchase of his former club, Manchester United. Beckham was rumored by British media to be interested in teaming up with his "Class of 92" teammates-- Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt-- fronting a potential buyout of the club by the Qatari royal family. Buying a majority interest in Manchester United could add allure to his MLS-Miami project and attract investors such as Miami Heat forward LeBron James - who partnered up with Fenway Sports Group to buy a piece ownership of English Premier League (EPL) team Liverpool F.C., and has expressed interest in investing in Beckham's project.
"David has become a good friend of mine over the last few years, and I think it would be great for this city to have a football club for sure," said James.
Corben says that Beckham's request to Florida officials seems genuine and not unreasonable but that other previous deals with sports teams owners and projects such as Marlins Park may have soured taxpayers as Beckham and investors request the same tax incentives that MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA teams have received in the past.
"There was an economic stimulus bill that was passed that promotes new business and sports franchises in the state. [Beckham] is correct that a new sports franchise would get that tax break," says Corben.
Despite facing "angry and engaged" taxpayers that feel burned by sports owners in the area, Corben said he would like to see the MLS-Miami project do well in Miami.
"I'm all for his success," says Corben. "I hope the process is public, fair, and equitable for everyone. Let's bend it like Beckham and not bend over for Beckham."
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