Miamians love soccer. This city would love to see a big-time team here. But an element of stadium-anticipation fatigue is setting in as soccer giant David Beckham and his investors have left residents and supporters in two years of fandom purgatory as they wrangle over a stadium deal. Will the team play by the port? How about at the old Miami Herald site? At FIU?
Finally, a solution seems closer than ever: A soccer park will be built in Little Havana, at the site of the former Orange Bowl, adjacent to Marlins Park. But today there's a new, totally unexpected wrinkle to the deal: a partnership between the MLS franchise and the Miami-Dade County School Board.
Earlier this week, the Miami Herald reports, Beckham's people met with county and school board officials about a possible deal. The proposal would let Miami Beckham United build a 30,000-capacity stadium at the site — mostly owned by the city and county — while paying the city $850,000 a year for 60 years.
The City of Miami would then transfer ownership to the Miami-Dade School Board. With the land under school board control, Beckham's group would get out of paying a lot of taxes, and the school board would get some kind of yet-to-be-determined benefit from the stadium and team access for educational purposes, hosting of football games, etc.
Any kind of deal between the team and school board, of course, will provoke a strong community debate over the role of Miami's educational system and public-private partnerships.
It could also be a hard sell on the county's thousands of teachers, many of whom are already disenfranchised with the leadership of superintendent Alberto Carvalho over contract issues.
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The left-field stadium–school board deal also presents serious political implications in a city scarred by a history of broken promises over stadium funding: The expected new stadium falls under the district of school board member Raquel Regalado — a feisty, seasoned media personality and politician who also happens to be running to become Miami-Dade County's first female mayor in 2016.
As a school board member, Regalado has concentrated on spurring initiatives such as improving technology in schools. She's also presented herself as a stalwart against reckless spending, vocally opposing a referendum last year that would have used property taxes to build a new county courthouse. (Regalado did not respond to multiple messages left by New Times for comment on the new proposal.)
School board members will meet later today to discuss the possible stadium deal. The City of Miami Commission is likely to vote on the stadium land deal in December, it was reported earlier this week, with a possible referendum before voters in March.