With Beckham's Little Havana Stadium Just About Dead, Overtown Could Be Next
David Beckham's Miami dreams are hanging by a thread.
Photo by Michael E. Miller
First it was the Port of Miami. Then a boat slip next to the American Airlines Arena. Finally, with a plot next to Marlins Park in Little Havana it seemed like David Beckham's group had at last found a spot to build a stadium for a new Major League Soccer franchise.
But now those Little Havana plans are also all but dead, killed by hold-out private landowners demanding millions for their buildings.
"There's a tight timeline to make this happen and it's obvious now we can't keep to that timeline," says Raquel Regalado, a school board member and mayoral candidate who's been a leading voice on negotiations on the Little Havana site.
Beckham's group tried to get in front of the latest news by promising that they have yet another site ready to pitch to a public already deeply skeptical of any new stadium construction in the wake of the Marlins Park fiasco. "I think we have found a site," team partner Tim Leiweke told CNBC last night.
But where? Beckham's group didn't return messages from New Times this morning, but the rumor mill is buzzing that the team is now looking to private land in Overtown.
The group has floated the idea of building a stadium in Miami's most historical African-American neighborhood before, but it's never specified where precisely it's looking in the neighborhood.
In some ways, Overtown would check many boxes on the team's wish list for a stadium location. It's central, very close to downtown and relatively well served by public transit.
But there would also be serious challenges that would dwarf even the contentious Little Havana negotiations. Overtown is already on edge as developers look to expand downtown's building boom their way; earlier this year, residents even set construction equipment on fire to protest looming gentrification.
How would a massive soccer stadium play in a neighborhood where in the past big projects — notably the construction of I-95 on ramps — literally destroyed the community?
The team could also face a much tougher sell if it's going to angle for the kind of tax breaks proposed in Little Havana; while Beckham's group could argue that stadium site was already city-owned land and therefore not generating taxes to begin with, that wouldn't be the case with private land in Overtown.
In the meantime, the political players are scrambling to keep up with the latest developments. Regalado says Beckham's group has told the school board they could still play a role in the new stadium project.
"We're still willing to work with the Beckham folks should they figure this out," she says. "We all continue to want the same thing wherever it lands. We want a community benefit for the entire county and every child in the county, whether the stadium is in Little Havana or Overtown or Miami Lakes."