Miami residents likely to decide fate of MLS stadium

Opposition of soccer stadium site in downtown Miami growing

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

MIAMI - It looks likely voters will decide the fate of David Beckham's downtown Miami soccer stadium plans.

In a statement sent to Local 10, Miami Beckham United's Strategic Advisor John Alschuler said, "The ultimate decision to build a stadium in downtown Miami should rest with voters."

The comments come after some downtown Miami residents and business owners launched a petition drive against the latest site proposal for David Beckham's Major League Soccer stadium plans.

The soccer superstar's dream of a waterfront stadium is facing fierce opposition -- again.

Following feasibility and traffic concerns related to Miami Beckham United's preferred PortMiami site, Miami-Dade County's mayor tossed around the idea of filling in a city-owned boat slip to build the MLS stadium.

The Florida East Coast Railway slip -- referred to as the "FEC slip" -- runs along Biscayne Boulevard and is flanked by the AmericanAirlines Arena and Museum Park.

Miami Beckham United's Alschuler told Local 10 in a written statement, "If Miami Beckham United selects the FEC slip as the preferred stadium site we will seek and fully support a voter referendum."

"The idea that you are going to build a concrete wall along Biscayne Boulevard just seems to be insanity to me," said Howard Kaplan of The Kaplan Group.

His office is located in the Marina Blue tower across the street from the boat slip.

"We designed our offices. We built this space out. It was raw footage, specifically for this," Kaplan said. "This is a piece of art that you can't ever replace and that's one of the reasons we bought the space here."

Some people who work and live in downtown Miami have started an online petition to gain support for their opposition to the proposed new stadium location.

It reads, in part: "We the residents of downtown Miami unanimously oppose the proposed building of the Beckham Stadium on the Water Front by Museum Park. This will destroy the only small part of ocean front park, a park which isn't even finished yet, and create an eyesore of another stadium beside the AA Arena."

"I don't think selling out to every celebrity that comes to town is the way this city needs to mature," Kaplan told Local 10.

Other stated concerns in the petition include traffic and crime: "We are also concerned about the violence that sometimes erupts after soccer games and these dangers would be right in our front yard and most certainly reduce the value of our properties."

"There is going to be a groundswell of people objecting to this," said Kaplan. "You just can't keep cutting off the waterfront to people."

In a statement sent to Local 10, David Beckham wrote, "I have always said that I want my club to be the 'people's club.' All over the world it can be seen how great sports teams and iconic stadiums can enhance a city. Together, with the people of Miami, I want to build something that will unite and entertain this amazing city for generations to come. Our principles remain the same today as they did at the beginning; we will privately finance the stadium and pay fair market value for the land. The passion for soccer is growing fast and we want to make everyone in Miami proud of what we can achieve."

Kaplan said he understands why Beckham would like the idea of building his soccer stadium at the boat slip site; the view is beautiful. His point is that the coveted property is public, and in his opinion should stay that way.

"We have condominiums all across the water," Kaplan said. "Why do you want to put more things that block the public from being able to see and have access to the waterfront? It just doesn't make sense to me."

Kaplan also said the soccer stadium proposal at the boat slip would cut into Museum Park. That was a park that was expected to rival Chicago's famed Millennium Park, but the city of Miami was unable to afford the grand plans.

Supporters of Beckham's boat slip plan have argued that green space lost at Museum Park would be gained with Miami Beckham United's plan to develop the waterfront land behind the American Airlines Arena.

"I don't buy it because it's hidden back behind buildings," said Kaplan in response. "People want to walk to green space. It needs to be easily accessible, not that you've got to walk through a bunch of buildings to get to it. That's not what a park is. A park is some place you easily walk to. You go. You enjoy it. When you are driving by you see it. Not hidden away somehow behind a concrete jungle of walls. That's not how a park gets used.

"Look at any great city in the world. You go to Chicago, you look at Millennium Park; it's right in the heart of the city and that's what Miami needs -- a world-class wonderful park. (Miami) needs to mature like every great city in the world. (It) has beautiful parks, beautiful public spaces for everybody to be able to enjoy, not just a select few, but everybody. So the idea that you would be blocking off the waterfront makes no sense whatsoever."

In the meantime, South Florida architect Ted Hoffman blogged about a compromise idea that involves building over the water to preserve the waterfront view from Biscayne Boulevard.

"Punch openings in the new 9-acre surface to allow views and use of the existing water," Hoffman said. "Deep steel trusses would span from concrete ribs in the way a bridge is built. Parking and services would be housed in the truss space. The stadium would be at least 25 feet above grade and open to the bay. What a view! Boats could use the slip to come to the site and when a goal is scored water cannons would shoot up and be seen everywhere and gently mist the crowd. Access would be through a park and/or soccer practice fields at the stadium level. A new park between this site and the two museums to the North would gradually and spectacularly step up to the new stadium level. Think Millennium Park in Chicago with three major league attractions as anchors."

Click here to find out more about Ted Hoffman's proposed plans.

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