PortMiami's World Trade Center vision collides with David Beckham's soccer stadium dream
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 01:20:35 AM EDT
David Beckham continued to share his excitement Thursday over plans to build a waterfront open-air soccer stadium on Dodge Island's southwest corner.
His main allies were entertainment entrepreneur Simon Fuller, local billionaire Marcelo Claure and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The world's second-largest cruise-ship company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, shun on the plan.
Gimenez's spokesman said rumors that the mayor was going to remove PortMiami's leadership to make way for a team that would be more amicable to Beckham's vision were unfounded.
PortMiami Director and World Trade Center Miami chairman "Bill Johnson has a reputation for tackling difficult assignments," county mayor spokesman Fernando Figueredo said. "That is why the mayor is considering him" for the opening of water-and-sewer director.
In September, more than $700 million in debt downgraded the port's credit rating. The port is in need of allies with deep pockets. Johnson wanted to find a developer to design, build, finance, maintain and operate the complex under a 75 year term.
His "trip to Asia—part of trip to meet with PortMiami customers on other topics—was to gauge interest in World Trade Center Miami," said Paula Musto, spokeswoman for the port.
Gimenez's eye on Johnson for the job had nothing to do with his position on the soccer stadium, Figueredo said. Johnson, 59, is set to retire on 2015. The water-and-sewer director is set to retire in April.
"There are a number of different plans for building a new World Trade Center complex at the port, and just because Bill Johnson leaves, it doesn't mean that that's going to change," Figueredo said. "We are years away from having a design that could be presented to the board of county commissioners."
News of having any type of development close to the Biscayne Boulevard downtown Miami area raised excitement among real estate circles.
"We still have all the open retail space at the bottom of 900 Biscayne. We still have tons of homeless people. Overtown needs to be redeveloped," said Eddie Gil, of Engel & Völkers. "A stadium would bring tons of exposure to the area. I think we could only benefit."
The bad memories of the Major League Soccer Fusion team folding in 2001, security fears and the cruise ship and Miami Heat game traffic gridlock are a concern when a stadium with a 21,000 to 35,000 capacity is mentioned.
"With thousands of cars flooding into downtown for games, the plan counts on about 7,900 parking spaces in downtown and 2,500 spaces at the stadium," said Margarita Reyes, a Biscayne Boulevard resident. "The numbers just don't add up."
Beckham consultant John Slchuler, of New York-based HR&A Advisors, promised his team would offer solutions. But there are plenty of stadium skeptics. Some include County Commission chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.
Meanwhile, Beckham was charming politicians. On Wednesday, he juggled dodging ethics accusations for his failure to register as a lobbyist while meeting with Gimenez. He also planted seeds that could bloom into state tax dollars in Tallahassee, and he made several television appearances.
Top lobbyist and key Republican money-raiser Brian Ballard -- whose high-profile clients include Florida Power & Light, the Genting Group, Verizon and Amazon.com -- was reportedly with Beckham in Tallahassee.
Some of his friends couldn't resist a "selfie" with the soccer superstar.