David Beckham's MLS ownership group today is "set to unveil its design for a European-style, open-air" stadium at PortMiami that "would frame full-frontal views of the downtown skyline and bayfront," according to a front-page piece by Viglucci & Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. The venue would feature "an undulating canopy and create a new public plaza reminiscent of Rome’s Spanish Steps at the water’s edge on Biscayne Bay." HR&A Advisors Chair John Alschuler, Beckham's real-estate advisor, said, "We think it’s time to share our vision." He added that the stadium blueprint is a collaboration between Miami-based Arquitectonica and K.C.-based 360 Architecture designed to "capitalize on a bay location that looks back toward downtown -- providing visitors a spectacular vista." The plan "envisions connecting the stadium and plaza to downtown Miami via an unused drawbridge that would be converted into a linear park for pedestrians." The plaza, "ringed by dining and retail establishments, would be programmed by the team with outdoor film screenings, concerts, World Cup broadcasts and other events throughout the year." The stadium "would face the plaza with shops, maybe a Beckham museum, and open terraces," and would also "have a nightclub open year-round to the public." Alschuler "concedes that the site poses complex 'landlord-tenant issues,' including where to put parking for more than 5,000 cars." However, he said that traffic and scheduling studies conducted by his team "show that games, held mostly at night, would not overlap with cruise ship arrivals or boardings, which take place during the day." While the plan "reasserts the port site as the Beckham group’s strong favorite, the investors say they’re also seriously considering three other sites as backups: land abutting Marlins Park, the preferred alternative; an industrial parcel adjacent to Miami International Airport’s auto-rental and mass-transit hub; and by Florida International University at Tamiami Park" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/24).
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke on Saturday said that he "doesn't mind the fact that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford doesn't support" the planned $120M (all figures Canadian) renovations to BMO Field, according to Neil Davidson of the CP. The Toronto Exec Committee last week "approved the proposed stadium plan with Ford casting the lone No vote." Leiweke said, "This is the guy that I went in and met with, he was mad at us that we didn't go through him at first. He wanted this to be his plan. We took him through it and he said 'I'm for this, I want this, I'll support you.' I'm extremely happy he's not supporting us." Davidson noted MLSE wants $10M from "each of the three levels of government and plans to spend" $90M itself to expand the city-owned, MLSE-operated stadium. Leiweke said that the city's $10M "would be repaid over 20 years with interest." Leiweke: "They actually do better with this investment than they do their pension fund. ... We're taking a public facility that the city currently has a 50 per cent responsibility to pay for and we’re looking at bills over the next 10 to 15 years that will be $30 to $40 million out of the city’s pocket and we’re proposing a solution that has them put in $10 million and we repay them over 20 years. This is not a gravy train. This is simple smart math" (CP, 3/22). Ford last week said of the proposed renovation, "I just don't think the taxpayers should have to pay for it. It should be paid for by the private sector. It would be nice if we wanted to expand [Ford-family owned] Deco Labels and have the taxpayers help us out, but it doesn't work like that" (TORONTO SUN, 3/22).
ALREADY PAYING OFF: MLS Toronto FC on Saturday played its home opener against DC United in front of a sold-out crowd at BMO Field, which "showed just how quickly" some of Leiweke’s player signings this offseason "have restored some of the luster to a listing sports property" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/23). But SPORTSNET's John Molinaro reported the venue's field "was in terrible condition after a long, cold Toronto winter." Streaks of "worn patches blotted the field that looked as though it had been chewed up by a CFL game." United coach Ben Olsen said the field "was as bad as I've ever seen in MLS" (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/22). TFC coach Ryan Nelson after the game "wasn't blaming the groundskeepers" for the field conditions. He said, "I blame God for that, for the winter He's given Toronto" (TORONTO STAR, 3/23).
The MLB Cardinals' Ballpark Village opens this week, with the team and Baltimore-based developer Cordish Cos. expecting "first-year attendance to top 7 million," according to Tim Bryant of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. But while the project's first phase "will make a splash" in downtown St. Louis, it "doesn't include all the things promised when plans for Ballpark Village surfaced more than a decade ago." Cardinals President Bill Dewitt III said that developers will "look closely at how to achieve something like their original plan, announced in 2000, to fill the 10-acre site with office buildings and a residential tower." DeWitt: "I’ve never given up on the hope of a large, mixed-use project that would fill the whole site." A source said Cordish officials discussed "in great earnest" construction of a residential building. DeWitt said that the Ballpark Village parcel at Clark Avenue and Broadway "could be ideal for a tall, thin residential tower." The development’s first phase "includes a Cardinals hall of fame and the Fox Sports Midwest television studio." DeWitt said that family-friendly offerings "will be among Ballpark Village’s 200 yearly events." He added that Super Bowl, March Madness and "even Oscars watch parties could be held before the 40-foot television at Ballpark Village's central court" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/23).
LEAVING THE NEST: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports Delaware North Sportservice's Cardinals Nation restaurant at Ballpark Village is "the first time in the vendor’s 98-year history that it has gone outside the four walls of a sports facility to run a food destination with connections to the primary venue." Cardinals Nation "encompasses a 510-seat restaurant and rooftop deck, which serves as an all-inclusive ticketed space for Cardinals games." The facility "will be open year-round, operating from 11 a.m. to midnight daily." The Cardinals are "responsible for booking catered events on days when games aren’t played" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/24 issue).