Beckham, Carvalho Meet as Agreement Nears on School Board-Owned Stadium

Alberto Carvalho and David Beckham met last night and are near an agreement on a soccer stadium.
Alberto Carvalho and David Beckham met last night and are near an agreement on a soccer stadium.

The final details on a soccer stadium in Little Havana — owned by the Miami-Dade School Board and built and operated by David Beckham and his partners — may have just been hammered out at the SoHo Beach House in South Beach last night. That's where Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Beckham met in person to discuss the project. 

Only a few holdout property owners in the area likely stand between the plan and an official vote with the school board, which is expected to back the deal. 

"I'd expect we'll see a proposal before the board right before or right after Thanksgiving," school board member Raquel Regalado tells New Times. "I think it will be unanimous support from our board."

Beckham and his partners have good reason to move fast, because the clock is ticking if the MLS ownership group wants to get school board and city commission approval for a public vote next year; both entities have only one meeting left this calendar year. And though special meetings could be called, rounding up a quorum to vote during the holidays is no easy feat.

The group has been on a charm offensive this week, with an op-ed in the Miami Herald from Tim Leiweke, a partner in the group, spelling out the proposed benefits: Beckham's team would build the stadium with entirely privately financed capital and would pay above fair-market value for the land next to Marlins Park.  

The team would offer the stadium for free to the school board for events including football games and graduations and would pay any property taxes on the land, Leiweke says, plus a half-million a year to the city for maintenance.

The package as a whole would mean a real benefit to the school system, Regalado says, including more than a million dollars annually saved in rental fees for big events, because unlike other stadium deals, the school board has been cut into negotiations from the get-go.

"When the AA Arena was done, it was tax exempt, and the school board got nothing. When the Marlins Park deal was done, it was tax exempt, and the school board got nothing," Regalado says. "We are always a consideration after the fact — after they cut the deal and they want to come take pictures with our kids. But where's the commitment to helping the district? This time it's there from the start."

Of course there are big hangups before the deal can happen. First, Beckham's group has to buy several privately-owned parcels of land. Owners have reportedly been offered several times market value — but several, sensing they've got a position of power in the deal, are holding out for more. 

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There's also lingering questions over why Beckham's group would be exempt from higher property taxes that would come with the massive stadium project once it's built. But Regalado says the benefits going to the city and school board would outweigh those lost revenues.

"For most part, I think all my school board members understand this would be good for the district," Regalado says.

If Beckham's group gets approval from the board and from the city commission, the plan would still go before voters in a referendum next year.


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