David Beckham Tours Sun Life Stadium, FIU Stadium With Eye On MLS Expansion
David Beckham on Saturday toured Sun Life Stadium and FIU Stadium, "signs that he has more than just a passing interest in Miami" as an MLS expansion city, according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. FIU AD Pete Garcia "led Beckham on a tour of the stadium, and then the school made a formal power point presentation over lunch, touting FIU’s location, 20,000-seat soccer-ready stadium, and its largely Hispanic soccer-loving student population." Garcia said, "Our presentation to Mr. Beckham addressed two things: Why Miami? Why FIU?" Garcia "cited the campus’ central location and easy access to soccer-crazed pockets in West Dade, Kendall, Doral and Homestead." He said that 61% of the school’s 52,000 students "are Hispanic," and that the stadium was "built to FIFA’s soccer specifications and that FIU would be willing to install natural grass if that’s what it took." Beckham has been in town since last week "exploring the city with Marcelo Claure, the Bolivian billionaire owner of Brightstar Communications who tried in 2009 to bring an MLS team to Miami." Beckham and Claure also have had "conversations" with Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross' RSE Ventures and "other local sports officials" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/2). Beckham said, "I think bringing an MLS team here to South Florida would be ... it's exciting. I think Miami fans are very passionate about their sports and very passionate about winning and of course, it would have to be success but it's definitely exciting." Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose Diaz said that there was "real backing for a team in Miami." Diaz: "There is huge political support. It is not only from the county, it's 100 percent support from the municipalities, the mayors and the commissioner, the counselors from the different cities, they are also extremely supportive" (REUTERS, 6/1).
TURF WAR? In Orlando, Mike Bianchi asked, "Could it be that Beckham's attempt to bring an MLS franchise to South Florida will trump Orlando City Soccer Club President Phil Rawlins' aspirations to do the same in Central Florida?" Rawlins said, "It's what I've been warning everyone about. We got a head start and have had an advantage, but that advantage can quickly be eroded if other cities start getting their act together. You're seeing indications of that now." Bianchi: "If Orlando's ownership group is smart, they will contact Beckham immediately to try to get him interested in Central Florida's effort instead of South Florida's. Instead of competing with Beckham why not join forces with him?" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/2).