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Will David Beckham Finally Get A Soccer Stadium? That's Up To Miami Voters

David Beckham (third from left) announced that his dream of a Major League Soccer team in Miami would become a reality. He was joined onstage by MasTec Chairman Jorge Mas, Sprint CEO Marcelo Clure, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, MasTec CEO Jose Mas, "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

David Beckham’s push to get a Major League Soccer team going in Miami has faced a long slog, with five years having passed as his ownership group looks for a suitable stadium site.

After several sites were considered then nixed for environmental or financial reasons, the group is now focused on a city-owned golf course. One catch: The city needs permission from voters to move ahead and give Beckham’s group a no-bid, 99-year lease on the site.

That doesn’t sit well with many Miami taxpayers, who notoriously ended up paying $1B to build a stadium for baseball’s Miami Marlins.

Beckham’s group first wanted a site downtown overlooking Biscayne Bay, then in Little Havana near the Marlins, then in Overtown. The pursuit was considered near-dead in January when an owner dropped out, but Miami businessman Jorge Mas, head of engineering and infrastructure firm MasTec, joined, as did the head of investment giant SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, infusing the proposed team with new life.

The new owners decided they would be better off abandoning the 9-acre Overtown proposal (over which locals were suing) and instead pursuing a stadium on the 73-acre site of the International Links Melreese Country Club, where they could build a $1B mixed-use complex with 400K SF of office space, a 750-room hotel, 600K SF of retail and a golf facility in addition to a 25,000-seat stadium. 

Tuesday’s referendum would exempt Beckham’s group from a city law that requires a competitive bid process for developing publicly owned land. The process has been criticized because it was rushed through, negotiations have barely been aired in public, and several commissioners have relatives who are lobbyists for Beckham’s team. Some experts say the land is being undervalued at $143M to $160M, and that it’s really worth $200M to $250M.

One resident tried challenging the city’s maneuvering around the no-bid process, but he failed in court. Related Group Chairman Jorge Perez has said that the proposed $3.5M that Beckham’s group would pay the city in rent should be more like $12M.

“It is bad enough turning the little open space we have left for the gain of a few wealthy individuals, but to give it away for a ridiculous sum is unconscionable,” he said this summer.

Mas has contended that no one else would pay sums he is offering for the golf course, which is toxic, and which his ownership group says it will contribute $35M to clean up.

If voters give the OK for the city to negotiate, it will work out a lease that must be approved by four of five city commissioners. Mas has said that time is of the essence because Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami is scheduled to begin play in 2020.