Columns

Overtown Residents Should Get a Vote on Whether They Want Beckham's Stadium

After failing three times to get public land for his soccer stadium, David Beckham and his partners have settled on buying a private site in Overtown to build a Major League Soccer dream. While Miami and county mayors are praising Miami Beckham United for finally securing a home for the future franchise, no one has asked Overtown residents if they want a stadium.

The people of Overtown deserve the right to say whether they want this stadium.

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Beckham would never have considered assembling land in Coral Gables. The city commission there almost certainly would have blocked any attempt to build a stadium. Why? It would bring traffic congestion, parking on residents' lawns, and rowdy, drunken sports fans. That is not worthy of the "City Beautiful," though it is apparently just fine in Overtown.

Professional sports franchises build stadiums in poor communities because the residents don't have the power to stop local politicians from going along with the scam. Joe Robbie, the original Miami Dolphins owner, built Sun Life Stadium in Carol City, which is now Miami Gardens. The Miami Marlins constructed their ballpark in Little Havana. And the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers inhabited the old Miami Arena at the edge of Overtown before moving to sweetheart-deal facilities elsewhere.

Beckham and his crew should have considered brokering a deal to build a soccer/football stadium at Tropical Park, which is perfectly located between Kendall and Doral. That's where a majority of Miami-Dade soccer fans live.

Beckham could have also partnered with deep-pocketed Hurricanes fans who want to see the team move to Tropical Park. Marcus Lemonis, a CNBC star and UM alum, last month pledged $1 million to start a fundraising effort.

Now Beckham will have to get rezoning approvals and building permits for his stadium. And he'll have to work out a deal with Miami-Dade to buy a county-owned lot next to the private site he has under contract. When that time comes, Overtown residents should get a chance to voice their opinions. They deserve a soccer academy. They should also get first dibs on jobs building the facility.

The people of Overtown should have the right to say whether they want this stadium. And they should reap its benefits.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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