Stadium rendering at the Port of Miami site proposed by Miami Beckham United
Stadium rendering at the Port of Miami site proposed by Miami Beckham United ()

A representative of the group lobbying Miami-Dade County for the right to build a professional soccer stadium on Miami’s Dodge Island on Wednesday extended and clarified its commitment not to seek municipal funds.

Land use attorney Neisen Kasdin, who is the Miami managing partner at Akerman, told the Daily Business Review that his client, Miami Beckham United, would not seek direct subsidies from the county or city to fund stadium construction or ask the municipal bodies to serve as guarantors on any financing needed to build the stadium—a strategy popular in arena financing deals. He also asserted his client would not seek operational subsidies to run the team once the stadium is built.

“The mayor has said he does not want the county as a guarantor, so right now we’re not asking for that,” Kasdin said. “We’re not asking for subsidies for operations either.”

The group led by retired soccer superstar David Beckham is looking for subsidies at the state level.

Kasdin’s comments drew a noteworthy line in the sand when stadium opponents are launching a media campaign casting the sports venue as a bad idea and characterizing its proponents as relying on vague promises.

“They’re talking out of three sides of their mouths,” said John Fox, president of the lobbying group Miami Seaport Alliance, which opposes the construction of a stadium on county-owned land at PortMiami.

Their comments came during a lunchtime debate on the proposed stadium, which backers want to see built on land partly used by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Representing the project boosters, Kasdin said the stadium was something needed “to complete the vision of Miami as a global city.”

Fox suggested dedicating the 12-acre site to a sports venue was not the best use for that land, while stressing the traffic and security issues associated with the 25,000-seat stadium would threaten the economic activity at the port.

“There’s only a two-lane bridge coming on and a two-lane bridge coming off,” Fox said, noting the impossibility of handling increased traffic. As for the port tunnel under construction, he said, “there’s only two lanes in the tunnel which, by the way, was not built to take traffic to a stadium.”

Fox said a preliminary traffic study by project backers was unrealistic and the city of Miami Beach recently put out “its own traffic study, and they think it’s going to be a disaster for the MacArthur Causeway.”

Opposing Mayors

Fox’s group, which is buying TV and radio ads to denounce the port stadium, said its cause has been endorsed by the mayors of 11 cities or towns in Miami-Dade County, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Surfside, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. Vice mayors from Pinecrest and Homestead also joined the cause.

During Wednesday’s discussion, Kasdin and Fox started with somewhat sober restatements of their prepared talking points. But the debate quickly became animated as each side floated criticisms of the other.

Kasdin, who repeatedly said the stadium opponents have no real support aside from Royal Caribbean, at one point said a major driver for the opposition might be coming from cruise executives who don’t want to give up their unobstructed views of downtown Miami.

Fox, for his part, attacked a statement made last month by John Alschuler, a design consultant on the project, who suggested the stadium would bring Miami “into the 21st century.” Fox said the comment was pretentious and “disrespectful” to the 114-year-old city.

Kasdin had a comeback.

“Sometimes where there’s smoke, there’s a smoke machine. That’s what we’re seeing from the opposition: a giant smoke machine,” Kasdin said. “This is a great idea, and the opposition’s nuts.”