Port in a storm

‘Goldenballs’ plan for a new footie stadium at the Port of Miami loses its lustre as the shipping fraternity weighs anchor on the project

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David Beckham’s dreams of building a football stadium in Miami have fallen foul of a formidable alliance of adversaries who have launched a newspaper campaign to condemn the plan, saying it would disrupt the port that is the lifeblood of the city.

The former England captain and star of the Major League Soccer team LA Galaxy announced his vision two months ago to bring an MLS side to Miami, stock it with some of the biggest names in the game, and build a 25,000-seat stadium on the city’s waterfront. Some of Miami’s most powerful business leaders, however, have urged authorities to give his plan the red card.

In a full-page advertisement in The Miami Herald, the group, the Miami Seaport Alliance (MSA), said that a stadium would interfere with cruise and cargo operations at the port, potentially jeopardising thousands of jobs and hindering expansion plans.

“We support a soccer franchise in Miami wholeheartedly and there are several suitable sites that would benefit tremendously from a stadium. However, Port Miami is not one of them,” the group, which is led by Royal Caribbean Cruises, said.

The port is the area’s most valuable economic engine after tourism, contributing $27 billion (£16 billion) a year to city coffers and supporting more than 207,000 jobs.

In anticipation of a doubling of cargo traffic over the next ten years, due in part to the expansion of the Panama Canal and growing cruise line operations, the MSA wants the vacant land on which Beckham hopes to build to be preserved solely for industrial purposes.

Well-paid jobs for crane operators and mechanics would be replaced by low-earning stadium jobs, such as food vendors, the advert said.

The opportunity to buy an MLS franchise for a cut-price $25 million was written into Beckham’s contract when he signed for LA Galaxy in 2007. He would co-own the franchise with his investors, the Bolivian-born telecoms billionaire Marcelo Claure and his business manager Simon Fuller, the Pop Idol creator.

“I know this city is ready for football. This is a dream,” Mr Beckham said at a Miami press conference announcing the move in February, at which he pledged to make the team the best in the world. However, he also predicted “a few bumps along the way”.

Gaining the necessary planning permission is a process likely to be protracted by political and industrial influences. Though Miami’s mayor is on board, some of the commissioners on the Miami-Dade County planning board who initially appeared in favour have since voiced doubts.

A failure to win planning permission would be likely to prolong, though not necessarily derail, Beckham’s plans to bring MLS football to the city. Other potential stadium sites have been identified by his group, though the port area — overlooking the downtown skyline — is at the top of his wish list.

John Alschuler, Mr Beckham’s real estate adviser, said yesterday: “David has proposed a stadium that would be transformative for Miami. There’s always opposition with big moves and transformative activity. That’s no great surprise. We are confident that the people looking to create a new future, new jobs and new energy will look beyond the narrow self-interest of people who have yet to muster any factual argument or identified any basis for opposition.”

He added: “I have spoken with Simon Fuller several times and Simon is convinced that Miami will rally around an affirmative vision for its place on a global stage.”

The MSA statement urged in its open letter to the local community: “Don’t be misled by the rhetoric. Let’s drop anchor on this harmful idea immediately and focus our attention on developing one of the other potential locations.”

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