Beck­ham cel­e­brates as Mi­ami vot­ers ap­prove path to sta­dium

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

David Beck­ham was cel­e­brat­ing in South Florida on Tues­day after his dream of build­ing a team in Ma­jor League Soc­cer took a no­table step for­ward. The for­mer Eng­land cap­tain’s push to bring a fran­chise to Mi­ami has been ham­strung for close to five years with a suitable venue for a new sta­dium ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to find. But vot­ers in Mi­ami on Tues­day came out in favour of a change in reg­u­la­tions that will al­low his own­er­ship group — Mi­ami Free­dom Park Group LLC — to ne­go­ti­ate a 99-year lease for the lat­est tar­get: city owned land at the Mel­reese Coun­try Club, the city’s only mu­nic­i­pal golf course, near Mi­ami air­port.

The mea­sure voted on Tues­day, which al­lows for a no-bid process in ne­go­ti­a­tions, had a 60% lead with 88% of precincts re­port­ing. The 73 acre site is the fifth lo­ca­tion put for­ward by Beck­ham, whose in­vest­ment group con­sists of Jorge Mas and his brother Jose, own­ers of lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture com­pany MasTec, as well as Sprint chair­man Marcelo Claure and SoftBank chief ex­ec­u­tive Masayoshi Son.

The saga has stretched on since Fe­bru­ary 2014, when Beck­ham first an­nounced his in­ten­tions to own a fran­chise. There’s much more work to do, yet the 43-year-old Lon­doner was de­lighted to have cleared the lat­est hur­dle in what has been a tor­tur­ous process so far.

“I need to say a big thanks to the fans who have stuck by us,” the for­mer Manch­ester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star said after speak­ing emo­tion­ally in front of an ex­citable crowd in Co­ral Gables, many of whom were decked out in In­ter Mi­ami FC col­ors.

“To­day is an ex­cit­ing day,” Beck­ham said. “We have had a dream of bring­ing a team to this great city.

We want to cre­ate a legacy, some­thing our chil­dren will as­pire to. But we also want to win. I am not com­ing here just to have a pretty team. Win­ning cham­pi­onships are im­por­tant to me.”

The next step, how­ever, is far from straight­for­ward. Beck­ham’s group must now earn ap­proval from four of the five city com­mis­sion­ers. Two of them — Manolo Reyes, a staunch critic of the plans, and Willy Gort, whose district in­cludes Mel­reese — op­posed the ref­er­en­dum ear­lier this year. Fur­ther­more, with the Mel­reese site built on a toxic waste dump which could cost up­wards of $35mn to clean up, doubters have sug­gested the plans will en­counter many more road­blocks be­fore build­ing per­mits are granted, some­thing which must hap­pen by Novem­ber 2019 ac­cord­ing to the pre­vi­ously agreed MLS ex­pan­sion agree­ment.

Crit­ics fear the clean-up costs could spi­ral and leave the tax­pay­ers foot­ing the bill — a daunt­ing prospect after the up­roar caused after base­ball’s Mi­ami Mar­lins Sta­dium fi­asco left lo­cals with a tab which has al­most reached $3bn. Beck­ham’s lav­ish $1bn, pri­vately fi­nanced pro­ject will in­clude a sta­dium com­plex as well as a huge shop­ping mall, a 750 room ho­tel, of­fice space and a 58-acre pub­lic park. Lo­cals were en­cour­aged to vote ‘yes’ to en­sure jobs and other ben­e­fits for Mi­ami in­clud­ing $20mn to help rein­vig­o­rate other pub­lic parks in the area.

MLS stress the team will be­gin play­ing in 2020 al­though it will have to be at a tem­po­rary venue, po­ten­tially at the Hard Rock Sta­dium, home of the Mi­ami Dol­phins, or the Mar­lins base­ball sta­dium. “We will look at all op­tions,” Jorge Mas said.

(AFP)

David Beck­ham’s lav­ish $1bn, pri­vately fi­nanced pro­ject in Mi­ami will in­clude a sta­dium com­plex as well as a huge shop­ping mall, a 750 room ho­tel, of­fice space and a 58-acre pub­lic park.

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