Raquel Regalado: Beckham Deal Can "Undo the Bad Blood" of Marlins Park

The latest twist in Miami's years-long soccer stadium saga — an unlikely partnership between David Beckham's group and the Miami-Dade County School Board (MDCSB) — is looking ever more likely. At a school board meeting yesterday, members expressed unanimous support for a possible deal, voting to allow schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho to proceed with negotiations for a deal with Beckham's people.

There's a Jeffrey Loria-shaped elephant in the room with any stadium deal in Miami, though: the disastrous Marlins Park fiasco. But Regalado tells New Times that she sees the Beckham plan as a chance to erase that bad business. 

"I think this is fantastic," the county mayoral candidate says. "This is a great opportunity to undo the wrongs of the past and prove that you can have a public-private partnership that does not involve public money. That's so in line with everything I believe in." 

At the meeting, Regalado says, one member raised questions over the issue of tax exempt status for the team — the crucial incentive for Beckham's group in the deal — but eventually all the members, she says, reached the same conclusion: A partnership could provide tremendous benefit to the school district, with no downside.

Partnerships between the district and local teams aren't unusual, Regalado points out, with relationships already in place between the MDCSB and the Heat, for example. But those have always come after a team was already in place; negotiating before the MLS stadium is built gives the district a much better chance at securing real benefits. A successful partnership, she adds, is also a golden opportunity to rescue public trust in local government after the disaster that characterized the building of that other stadium in Little Havana.

"This is an opportunity to undo the bad blood with the Marlins' stadium," she says.  

The most obvious benefit of a Beckham–school district relationship, of course, would be financial: Because the school district doesn't have permanent access to any stadium, it ends up spending huge amounts of money to lease spaces for various events. Last year, the district spent nearly half a million to rent spaces just for graduations; as part of the deal, the board would want a financial benefit from the team in the range of a minimum $1.7 million per year.

That money could be used to pay teachers, Regalado says, as well as buffer the district's general fund and help subsidize costs for things such as uniforms and struggling music programs. 

The board is also exploring the option of installing a school or other public educational space on the stadium grounds, as well as other ways to provide access to the MLS team and games for district kids. The team, in turn, would have the public-relations benefit of boasting a real partnership with one of the nation's largest school districts, as well as a burgeoning fan base of young Miamians.

"We're there to ensure that this is something that has longevity," Regalado says. "We want this franchise to be a success." 

The negotiation process is expected to unfold fairly quickly. After Carvalho reaches a deal with the Beckham group, the school board could vote to approve it as early as November so that city residents could vote on a referendum next March. 

Regalado brushes aside any suggestion that her support of a stadium partnership has anything to do with her 2016 campaign for county mayor. She and the rest of the school board members, she says, are excited about the possible benefit for 400,000 district kids.

“I was so proud of my board," she adds. "Nobody asked for tickets.”
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Trevor Bach