Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Principal, Arquitectonica, gives presentation of the Miami Beckham United efforts to bring MLS soceer to Miami.
Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Principal, Arquitectonica, gives presentation of the Miami Beckham United efforts to bring MLS soceer to Miami. (J. Albert Diaz)

Give or take 6,400 more cars.

That’s how many vehicles would flood downtown Miami to hunt for parking on game day if a new soccer stadium is built in the southwest corner of PortMiami, the proponents estimated Monday at an event unveiling its plans.

It’s enough to sop up more than 80 percent of the spaces likely to be available in the city’s urban core, according to a group adviser, who at the same time maintained that wouldn’t necessarily make traffic worse. The group is backed by retired soccer superstar David Beckham, British entertainment entrepreneur Simon Fuller and Miami Beach billionaire Marcelo Claure.

“Will downtown be congested? Yes. Will it be beyond current levels of traffic? We don’t think so,” John Alschuler, chairman of New York-based HR&A Advisors Inc., said during an unveiling of stadium plans. HR&A is advising on the project and commissioned a draft traffic and parking impact study to arrive at its numbers.

The study assumes 85 percent of the more than 25,000 fans who would pack a Saturday night sellout starting in 2018 would arrive by car, Alschuler said. There’s enough parking in so-called “surplus” 7,900 downtown parking places to accommodate demand, he said.

A slide showed the estimate assumed fans would park west of Northwest First Avenue from South First Street to North 11th Street. Alschuler said the analysis assumed empty office building garages would be available to fans. Parking demand could also be accommodated by providing up to 2,500 spaces at the stadium, though no such plan has been approved.

Parking and traffic issues in an area that already sees gridlock during major cultural and sporting events—and is expected to suffer even more congestion with the proposed Miami WorldCenter project nearby—is quickly becoming a major sticking point for Dodge Island stadium opponents.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which has its headquarters on the county-owned island, opposes the development. The cruise line has said it has “deep reservations about using this port as a location for a stadium” and pointed to traffic as an issue.

Traffic Management

Alschuler said stadium planners have taken into consideration several steps that could be taken to handle new traffic. Games would take place when they would minimize the overlap with cruise passenger traffic, he said. The team also would schedule matches so they don’t coincide with Miami Heat games at the nearby American Airlines Arena, which relies on private parking for its fans.

But the plan doesn’t consider some other likely factors. The traffic study is based on the assumption the stadium would hold 25,000 fans, even though the people pushing the project are considering a 40,000-seat stadium if the University of Miami agrees to use the arena as a home field for football games.

Alschuler suggested “traffic management” could take care of most issues with fans crossing Biscayne Boulevard. He later said Biscayne Boulevard would likely need elevated pedestrian paths, but “we wouldn’t build that.”

Alschuler and the design firm Arquitectonica, which is engaged in the project, emphasized what they see as the transformative nature of the project.

It would include a large public plaza and potentially up to 1 million square feet of mixed-use buildings. Residential condos are unlikely, but hotel and office space is a possibility, Alschuler said.

Bernardo Fort-Brescia, principal of Miami-based Arquitectonica, said a marquee accomplishment of the project would be to turn a cement path that runs along the roadway to the port into a lush walkable garden similar to the High Line linear park in New York City. It would be “more like another room” than a simple walkway, Fort-Brescia told the Daily Business Review.

Another signature accomplishment would be to create a stadium with panoramic views of downtown Miami, Alschuler said. Project backers hope the area around the stadium will become a focal point for downtown Miami with year-round open-air events and even a nightclub.

“It will create an unparalleled experience in soccer in the United States, perhaps an unparalleled experience anywhere in the world,” Alschuler said.

It’s not a given that the stadium will be built on the proposed PortMiami site, though it’s the preference of the project’s backers. The group has looked at over 30 sites and whittled possible locations down to the port site, one abutting Marlins Park in Miami’s Little Havana, one near Miami International Airport and one at the Florida International University campus in west Miami-Dade County.

“If the port site isn’t feasible, we’ll move elsewhere,” Alschuler said.