SBD/May 5, 2014/Facilities

Opponents Of Beckham's MLS Stadium Bid Focusing On Possible Port Gridlock

Beckham's stadium could threaten 200,000 jobs generated by the port
David Beckham's bid to build an MLS stadium in Miami "has turned into a 'not in my backyard' clash, pitting the retired English superstar against" Royal Caribbean Cruises, according to David Adams of REUTERS. The company is "at the forefront of efforts to block Beckham's plans to build a 25,000 seat open-air stadium next to the port of Miami" and also is "spearheading a group called the Miami Seaport Alliance, which has paid for full-page newspaper ads and TV and radio spots opposing Beckham's plans." The alliance said that a stadium "would threaten the 200,000 jobs generated by the port." Miami Seaport Alliance President John Fox, "who until recently headed government relations for Royal Caribbean in Washington, accused Beckham of a 'land grab' this week, saying he suspected the stadium was a shoehorn for a much larger development plan on real estate close to the port entrance." Beckham's group insists that the stadium "must be located in a waterfront downtown setting." Other "key players have remained silent," including Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, whose represented area is "located near the port, has joined those opposed to a stadium." Levine: "We love soccer, but this is all about traffic." He added that the planned site "would cause 'horrible' congestion on a major causeway that links downtown Miami to the popular tourist hotel district in the southern part of Miami Beach." Adams noted the decision ultimately "will rest with Miami-Dade County commissioners, although no timetable has been set for a vote" (REUTERS, 5/3).

THOSE ARE THE TAX BREAKS, KID: In Miami, Kathleen McGrory reported Beckham's "star power may have swayed a few lawmakers" to help him to build his dream stadium in Miami. The Legislature on Friday "approved a bill that would allow professional sports franchises to compete for sales tax subsidies." The proposal "passed with a provision that would benefit three construction projects, including Beckham’s proposed Miami soccer stadium." Beckham "traveled to Tallahassee to push the measure." Beckham in a statement on Friday said, "Today is not only good for Orlando and Miami, it’s great for all of Florida." McGrory noted the bill "establishes an expedited process" for three new projects: the soccer stadiums proposed for Miami and Orlando, and the renovations for Daytona Int'l Speedway. The three "could share" in $7M in tax breaks next year. Beginning in '15-16, a total of $13M "would be available to professional football, hockey, basketball and soccer teams, as well as NASCAR events and professional rodeos." MLB teams "could also compete," but only if the league "eliminates its requirement that Cuban baseball players establish residency in another country before becoming free agents" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/3).

PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING: In Orlando, David Damron reports Orange County (Fla.) Commissioner Ted Edwards "wants to see the proof that both Orlando and Orange County looked at renovation options to the Citrus Bowl which could have accommodated" a new MLS franchise, and the numbers that "led both sides to decide that building a new soccer stadium was less costly." Edwards last week in a memo asked county Mayor Teresa Jacobs for "any documentation concerning the review" of that possibility. Edwards said that since the league "allowed Atlanta to put both its pro soccer and football teams into a proposed new $1.2 billion stadium, Orlando should have been allowed to put its new MLS team into a Citrus Bowl" now undergoing a $207M renovation (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/5).

SPEED SUBSIDIES: In Orlando, Mark Matthews reported Int'l Speedway Corp. is poised for a "potential win that already has some budget hawks seething." The company until recently "benefited from a longstanding perk in the tax code that let them deduct the cost of improving their stadiums at a rate much faster than other businesses." The racetrack provision expired at the end of '13, "along with more than 50 other tax breaks," but last month, the Senate Finance Committee "approved legislation that would resurrect most of the breaks that expired." Congressional documents show that the provision "represents only a fraction of the cost of renewing the tax extenders" -- about $71M over 10 years. The provision is "enough of an advantage" that ISC has "fought hard to keep it." Federal lobbying disclosure forms show that in the first three months of '14, ISC "spent $100,000 on lobbying" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/5).

TRAINING DAY: A PALM BEACH POST editorial stated the economic benefit of using public money made available with the passage of the bill Friday to build spring training stadiums is "debatable, but the county has a substantial interest in preserving Southeast Florida’s spring training tradition, both for financial and quality-of-life reasons." The Astros and Nationals are currently considering sites in the area for their Spring Training hubs, but if they "snub the county for west Florida or Arizona, it could give the two teams that currently train in Jupiter" -- the Marlins and Cardinals -- the "ability to bolt their leases, which have an out-clause if the number of spring-training operations on Florida’s east coast falls below the current four." It also "would be the end of more than six decades of spring training in Southeast Florida" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/4).
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